Apprentices helping to switch on County Durham

A team of 25 apprentices are hard at work bringing superfast broadband to households and businesses the length and breadth of the Digital Durham programme area.

A team of 25 apprentices are hard at work bringing superfast broadband to households and businesses the length and breadth of the Digital Durham programme area.

The group is being trained up and given the skills to install and maintain fibre broadband, alongside gaining recognised qualifications over a two and a half year period.

Bethany Johnson joined BT’s local network business, Openreach, in September 2014 – attracted by the idea of ‘learning and earning’ on the job, whilst working towards a BTEC Level 3 Certificate in Professional Competence for IT and Telecoms Professionals.

Twenty one year-old Bethany from Fencehouses, has already gained plenty of experience helping to connect up people’s homes to the new fibre enabled green roadside cabinets.

She said: “I had a job as an accounts manager before joining Openreach, but I just couldn’t see myself stuck behind a desk for the rest of my working life. I wanted something where I would be on the go and out and about working with different people every day. Working for Openreach ticked all those boxes.”

Bethany is currently learning how to connect up and maintain the network and has recently completed her training in one of the more challenging aspects of the job – detecting and fixing faults. She said: “It is not easy but I like to go in and play detective. It is especially satisfying when you do find a solution. The customer can’t thank you enough and that’s a lovely feeling.”

The job also provides Bethany with the flexibility to pursue her other passion for detective work – as a special police constable. Bethany said: “What’s great is that I can fit my hours around the time I spend doing my police work. Originally Openreach was going to be a stop gap to becoming a police officer, but the tables have now completely turned. “There are so many different avenues you can go down once you’re qualified. If you’re far enough ahead with your studying, then you can use the time to do other things so I’ve been able to spend time working with other teams in other parts of the business to experience what they do.”

Bethany added: “I’ve really enjoyed my time so far and I’m looking forward to where this job will take me next. If you are ‘hands on’ and you like being out and about then this is for you – I couldn’t recommend it enough.”

Simon Roberson, BT’s regional partnership director for the North East, said: “Young people like Bethany are at the forefront of the fibre revolution that will drive future economic growth across the North East. Superfast broadband is changing for the better the way people communicate, learn to do business and enjoy their spare time.”

Cllr Jane Brown, Durham County Council’s cabinet member for corporate services, said: “It is pleasing to see that our ongoing support of the Digital Durham scheme has helped create fantastic opportunities such as these for local young people as they embark on their careers in the technology industry.”

The Digital Durham broadband programme is delivered by Durham County Council and BT. In total, £34 million has been invested by BT, Durham County Council, the Government’s Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) programme and public sector partners in Gateshead, Sunderland, South Tyneside, North Tyneside and the Tees Valley.

A second phase of fibre deployment is already planned to begin in July 2016 benefitting an additional 29,000 homes and businesses. By the end of the roll-out, 97 per cent of premises within the programme area will have access to fibre broadband.

For more information about the Digital Durham programme please visit www.digitaldurham.org