BT apprentices helping to switch on Digital Derbyshire

East Midlands to benefit from BT plans to create 1,000 apprenticeship and graduate jobs as UK prepares to celebrate National Apprenticeship Week 

BT apprentices are playing a key role in the roll-out of superfast broadband across Derbyshire.

More BT apprenticeships are due to be created in the region this year as BT today announced plans for 1,000 new apprenticeship and graduate jobs across the UK.

Apprentices are already working on the Digital Derbyshire project, being trained up and given the skills to install and maintain fibre broadband, alongside gaining a BTEC Level 3 Diploma in ICT Systems and Principles over two and a half years.

One of the apprentices working in Derbyshire is 28-year-old David Biggin, from Sheffield. He joined Openreach, BT’s local network business, in March 2013, attracted by the prospect of being able to ‘learn and earn’ towards a skilled job.

Trainee field engineer David said: “I did a university degree in quantity surveying but it turned out it wasn’t the right choice for me. I ended up manning a 24-hour customer helpline for Balfour Beatty. The apprenticeship really appealed to me because I could earn the same as I was in the call centre while getting the training for something that could become a career rather than just another job.”

David kick started his new career with a month of intensive basic training before spending time out in the field shadowing an experienced ‘buddy’ engineer to help put theory into practice.

Now with just six months left of his training to go David is now more than capable of working on his own, moving from Sheffield to work out of Chesterfield in the middle of last year.

He said: “I feel I’ve got the skills and competence now to deal with anything this job throws at me now. No job is the same and for me the more complex the repair or installation, the better. I especially get a lot of satisfaction helping customers who rely heavily on their landline connection, such as elderly customers living in isolated properties. They are thrilled to bits when you’re able to fix their problem. It makes it all worthwhile.”

David is one of hundreds of Openreach engineers involved in the rollout across Derbyshire - helping to connect up more than 250,000 kilometres of underground fibre optic cable throughout the county – enough to travel from Derby to York and back again.
As the Digital Derbyshire rollout has progressed, David has noticed a sharp increase in customer connections.

David said: “There’s definitely been an increase in the number of ‘cabinet jumpering’ jobs that we do – that’s where we just enable the cabinet to link up with people’s homes but customers set up the broadband in their homes themselves. When I started things were much quieter, with about a couple each day. Now it averages around ten. I think more and more people are realising the benefits of superfast and are signing up to a service.”

Owen Moody, BT’s regional director for the East Midlands, said: “Young people like David are at the forefront of the fibre revolution that will drive future economic growth across Derbyshire whilst at the same time changing for the better the way people communicate, learn to do business and enjoy their spare time.

The 1,000 apprenticeship and graduate jobs announced today is in addition to the 1,000 the company created last year and is yet another example of BT investing in the future of the UK.

Youngsters will be working on areas including software development, IT, engineering and digital technology. Next week is also National Apprenticeship Week which is designed to celebrate apprenticeships and the positive impact they have on individuals, businesses and the wider economy.

For up to date information on available business support and the roll-out, visitwww.digitalderbyshire.org.uk