Scotland's Full Fibre Charter: Openreach case study

Scotland’s Full Fibre Charter signatory Openreach’s case study on supporting and developing Scotland’s workforce.

Scotland’s Full Fibre Charter consists of a series of pledges to help extend full fibre broadband across Scotland.

Openreach runs and maintains Scotland’s largest broadband network. This includes managing the copper phone line and rolling out full fibre connections to homes and businesses across Scotland, as part of its drive to connect 25 million UK homes and business to fibre broadband by 2026. Openreach is also the delivery partner for the Scottish Government’s Reaching 100% (R100) programme, which you can read more about here

Openreach is one of our founding Full Fibre Charter signatories having signed up with Axione and CityFibre in December 2020. Borderlink, Cloudnet, Hyperoptic, Lothian Broadband Networks and Virgin Media O2 signed up in April 2022. 

To ensure maximum full fibre coverage across the country, it is essential that Scotland’s workforce is equipped with the skills needed to rollout and maintain future-proofed digital infrastructure. Through the Full Fibre Charter, signatories have pledged to support and develop Scotland’s workforce, committing to providing work-based learning and other career development opportunities, and to attracting new and diverse talent to the telecoms sector. 

Case study: investing in people 

With 1,100 trainees having joined in the last five years, and many existing engineers needing new skills for the new full fibre technology, there has been a significant increase in activity at Openreach’s national training school in Livingston, West Lothian. The site delivers around 11,000 training days per annum – 90 per cent of the company’s training in Scotland, with a sister site in Dundee primarily supporting trainees and engineers in the North and East of Scotland. 

Openreach has invested £500,000 in these centres, which are used not only for training employees in technical skills and health and safety practices, but also to support supply chain build partners and the wider community, including technical colleges.

Michael Shemilt, Learning and Development Manager for Scotland, recently received an industry award recognising Openreach’s contribution to Scotland’s telecoms workforce. His own career began with an apprenticeship, and his team includes several trainers who also started out as trainees.

Michael said: “We believe in ‘growing our own’ - recognising the long-term investment that trainees bring to the talent pipeline. We need new skills and ideas as we move from analogue copper lines to an all-digital environment. 

I love seeing our people at the start of their careers and helping equip them with everything they need to work safely. That ranges from the skills they need to install broadband, work underground or climb a pole, to our new app which gives them immediate access to useful info, all in one place, on their smartphone.

This job is all about keeping people connected – and that starts with our own workforce.” 

Focusing on diversity 

Openreach is also taking steps to increase diversity in its workforce. In the last year, 16 per cent of its new recruits were female, up from single figures in previous years, and it aims to increase ethnic diversity in line with Office for National Statistics measured levels for Scotland. 

Michael added: “Openreach has really grappled with diversity and we’re open about our commitments. We have very active ethnic diversity, gender equality, neurodiversity and pride networks, and we’ve developed lots of training and initiatives, including working with specialists to change the language we use to tackle unconscious bias.

“We’re making good progress, but we have a lot more to do because historically our business – and engineering in general – has lacked diversity.” 

Openreach’s work to attract and retain a diversity of new recruits, commitment to future-proofing its existing workforce through skills development and investment in two Scottish training locations, are all important contributions towards supporting and developing Scotland’s telecoms workforce, helping to position Scotland at the forefront of digital connectivity. 

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