With a country-wide full-fibre gigabit broadband network more important than ever to support the UK’s post-Brexit and post-Covid-19 recovery, former altnet turned network major CityFibre has today announced a three-year recruitment and training programme to provide up to 10,000 people with jobs upgrading its digital infrastructure to be fit for purpose.
In the Queen’s Speech on 19 December 2019, Boris Johnson’s then newly elected government indicated it would introduce laws to accelerate the delivery of gigabit-capable broadband across the UK by 2025, a legislative journey that began in January 2020. In addition, the 2020 Budget statement confirmed the UK government’s commitment to invest a total of £5bn to roll out full-fibre broadband across the country.
Yet recent research from WIK-Consult identified a number of key areas that need to be addressed before the UK government’s full-fibre targets can be realised.
The survey showed that while the UK has already achieved extensive coverage of superfast broadband, there were challenges associated with encouraging migration. Chief among these was that consumers may consider that superfast broadband meets their needs. In support of this point, WIK pointed to the fact that 30% of consumers were still using basic broadband.
The stakes are high in UK full-fibre rollout. A study from Assembly Research in April 2020, commissioned by Huawei, warned that a 12-month delay to achieving the 2025 goal of full coverage of gigabit-capable broadband would mean the UK missing out on £9.7bn of productivity benefits, while a two-year delay would see the UK miss out on £28.7bn. In addition to staying on target meaning a £51.4bn boost, the study projected that if everything remained on track over the next 10 years, the boost could total as much as £68.8bn by 2030.
Before the Covid-19 pandemic hit, CityFibre was riding the wave of the long-overdue but rapid expansion of the UK’s full fibre network. Its acquisition of FibreNation from UK internet service provider (ISP) TalkTalk Group saw the company almost double in size and effectively become the UK’s third national digital infrastructure platform.
And giving impetus to its rollout plans, CityFibre is now embarking on a recruitment plan that will include the identification and training of thousands of unemployed UK residents as well as new job opportunities for qualified and experienced construction and telecoms workers. Jobs will be created within CityFibre’s growing pool of network construction partners in order to make good on the promise of delivering the up to £4bn rollout of full fibre infrastructure to over 100 towns and cities.
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Recruitment campaigns to identify the first wave of trainees will begin later in June 2020. The programme will target specific groups including service-leavers and those now unemployed as a result of the coronavirus crisis.
The company stressed that its recruitment campaign would also seek to attract more women and individuals from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds, groups that it said were “significantly under-represented” in the construction industry. Construction Industry Training Board figures cited by CityFibre showed that just 16% of construction employees are female, and only 7% are from BAME backgrounds.
CityFibre added that it will also work closely with a network of national employment and recruitment partners including The Department of Work and Pensions, Construction Industry Training Board and the Career Transition Partnership as well as a number of other specialists such as the Women's Engineering Society.
Wherever possible, individuals will be recruited from the town or city identified for roll-out to boost local employment and economies. CityFibre will continue to work closely with Local Authorities to identify local partners through which it can promote and deliver the programme.
Commenting on the recruitment programme and its aims and expectations, Steve Holliday, chairman at CityFibre, said: “In the wake of the Coronavirus, delivering the government’s target of full fibre nationwide by 2025 could not be more important,” he said.
“Of all the infrastructure projects and industrial policies under consideration, full fibre will have the biggest impact in the shortest time, and for the least public money. It will help ensure that the UK not only recovers economically, but that it swiftly transitions to a greener, smarter and fairer economy in which to thrive. We’re delighted to launch our training and recruitment programme creating up to 10,000 jobs in such a critical and vibrant sector.”
Individuals interested in training and career opportunities supporting CityFibre’s rollout can register their interest at www.cityfibre.com/buildfibre.
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