Veterans deploying broadband: the ex-forces engineers delivering Digital Scotland
Ex-Armed Forces personnel who are now serving their country by helping to build Scotland’s high-speed digital network were today saluted by Veterans Minister Keith Brown.
He met engineers delivering part of the £410 million Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband programme after leaving the Army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force.
The engineers are just some of the 2,000 plus ex-military personnel recruited by BT across the UK in the last five years – more than one hundred of them have been in Scotland.
The Cabinet Secretary joined engineers at the Dollar exchange and heard about their transition from the services to civilian life and the skills they bring to delivering superfast broadband across Scotland.
Mr Brown said: “The Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband network has now reached more than half a million Scottish premises and it wouldn’t be happening without the army of engineers who are delivering this rollout on the ground – and in Scotland, that means some very challenging terrain indeed.
“The ex- Armed Forces engineers I met today – who have served in places from Northern Ireland and the Falklands to Afghanistan and Sierra Leone – are involved in a variety of roles, from helping to plan and build infrastructure to installing connections for people who’ve decided to upgrade to the new, faster speeds.
“It can sometimes be difficult for veterans when they adapt to life outside the armed forces to find fulfilling, high-quality careers. BT has successfully recruited more than 100 engineers from this background in Scotland in recent times, and I’m proud that the Scottish Government is able to support this employment through the Digital Scotland rollout.”
One of the engineers Mr Brown met was Duncan Ford, 34, from Leith in Edinburgh who spent five years working on board nuclear submarines in the Royal Navy.
He’d spend months at sea, all over the world, looking after sonar systems and helping his submarine navigate international waters. He said:
“I’m enjoying being out and about around Scotland, meeting colleagues and customers, every day is different. The ability to problem solve quickly in a submarine deep underwater is critical and I’m using some of those skills to help me find solutions to engineering challenges back on dry land.
“More recently, I’ve had a development opportunity working in our control room in Glasgow where I managed the jobs for around 25 engineers in the Manchester area. I’m hoping to put some faces to names one day and meet some of them in person.
“I’d recommend it as a career move; you get to be your own boss most of the time and work flexibly. There’s lots of future career options available and I’m always learning new skills.”
Brendan Dick, BT Scotland director, who has worked with the Lowland Reserve Forces and Cadets’ Association on a voluntary basis since 2004, said:
“We have many long-standing connections with the military and we’re proud to support the transition of veterans into our workforce. We gain highly-skilled, motivated and disciplined personnel used to working in diverse and challenging environments, who leave the Armed Forces with a secure career path into the private sector.
“Our recruits tell us there are many similarities between Openreach and the military, with people working as a team, great variety in the job day to day, career development and progression opportunities – and daily banter!”
Sara Budge, Programme Director of Digital Scotland Superfast Broadband added:
“All of these individuals have served their country for many years in their past lives in the armed services. Now they’re using their talents to serve their country in another way – by helping deliver the high-speed broadband infrastructure that’s the backbone of the Scottish economy.
“It’s fantastic to know that they are part of the team helping to deliver the roll-out across Scotland.”
The Digital Scotland rollout is providing fibre broadband infrastructure to parts of Scotland not included in commercial providers’ investment plans. Funding partners include the Scottish Government, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, BT, the UK Government through Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK), local authorities and the European Regional Development Fund. The rollout consists of two projects – one covering the Highlands and Islands area and the other covering the rest of Scotland. Combined with current commercial roll-out plans, 85 per cent of premises in Scotland have access to fibre broadband thanks to the programme with around 95 per cent by the end of 2017/18.
The Rest of Scotland project is being supported through £157.6 million public funding including £50 million from BDUK. The public funding includes funding from all 27 local authorities in the project area and additional funding from 14 local authorities who are investing around £51 million to increase coverage, meet local priorities and address the digital divide in their areas. Together with the investment in the Highlands and Islands region and BT’s contribution of £126 million, it brings the total investment in fibre broadband in Scotland to more than £410 million.
More than 3,600 Clackmannan premises are now benefiting from the Digital Scotland rollout in towns including Dollar and Tillicoultry, while the programme is building on BT’s existing fibre network in Alloa. More coverage is planned, with households in Alva, Kincardine and Muckhart set to benefit as work continues. In total, the fibre upgrade is now available to more than 21,000 Wee County premises.
BT has recruited more than 2,000 ex-military personnel across the UK in the last five years working with the MOD’s resettlement provider, the Career Transition Partnership. The vast majority work as engineers in its Openreach division.