Toby Perkins, MP for Chesterfield and Staveley and the Shadow Minister for Skills and Further Education, visited Openreach’s Bolton training centre on Bury Road to witness first-hand how engineers are being trained to provide the North West and beyond with faster, more reliable full fibre broadband.
Openreach has invested around £1.7 million into the centre which now boasts 14 classrooms, 86 telegraph poles and a state-of-the-art replica street nicknamed ‘Open Street’ – built from scratch to recreate the company’s network in the outside world.
Opened in 2019 by Angela Rayner MP for Ashton-under-Lyne and Deputy Leader of the Labour party, the centre enables engineers to experience a typical working day – from installing cables to building joints and making repairs, working underground or climbing telephone poles and installing new services inside customers’ homes and businesses. It has become a key regional hub supporting the education of thousands of new and existing engineers from across the North West and beyond.
Toby stated “It is wonderful to see first-hand the facilities and opportunities on offer at the Bolton Openreach Training Centre, as well as finding out about their work to improve broadband reliability and speed. As we witnessed during the pandemic, access to broadband is a real lifeline for so many people across our communities. Given that there has been a decline in the number of young people who are able to access apprenticeships nationally, apprenticeships and training opportunities like those on offer here at Openreach are incredibly welcome and I’d like to see more of them. The Labour Party view apprenticeships as the gold standard for training and skills policy and we would create 20,865 new apprenticeships across the North West, with 530 directly in the Bolton North East constituency”.
Since the government’s introduction of the apprenticeship levy in 2017, the number of young people undertaking apprenticeships have fallen, alongside a decline in entry level apprenticeships.
Catherine Colloms, Openreach’s Managing Director of Corporate Affairs and Chair of their North of England Board said: “It was great to be able to showcase this fantastic facility, which demonstrates our commitment to investing in our people.
“We’re investing in a local, skilled and experienced workforce that will support our customers and our full fibre build across the North West, and this year alone we’ll create 540 new jobs throughout the region, including more than 400 apprenticeships.”
“We already employ one of the UK’s largest team of telecoms engineers and professionals, but we’re absolutely committed to building a more diverse and inclusive team in an industry that’s traditionally been very white, male dominated. Last year, we attracted 600 women into trainee engineering roles – more than double the previous year – but we know there’s a lot more to do.
” Recruitment in the North West is going well this year and although it’s early days we’re seeing strong application numbers from both women and people from minority groups. We want to reflect the communities we serve and give opportunities to people from all backgrounds, so I’d encourage anyone looking for a new opportunity or career change to check us out and consider a career in Openreach.”