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Openreach trains apprentice engineers in virtual reality

Openreach inductees get to experience an immersive simulation of life as an engineer, taking them up telephone poles and into underground chambers

Openreach is giving potential recruits to its engineer trainee scheme the chance to try out an immersive virtual reality (VR) experience to give them an insight into what life as a field engineer entails.

The national network owner, which is currently in the process of being legally separated from its parent organisation, BT, is currently recruiting 1,500 trainees and apprenticeships as part of a plan to improve customer service and invest in its network operations.

Candidates for jobs in its engineering workforce will get to experience climbing a telephone pole, finding out what’s inside one of its green roadside cabinets, or touring a typical telephone exchange through a VR headset. Openreach said it also planned to use the demonstration to generate interest at careers fairs and so on.

The VR element will be one part of a 12-month accredited learning programme that includes on-the-job experience and culminates in an externally recognised qualification for IT, software and telecoms professionals.

Openreach expects 119 recruits to join the company in April 2017, followed by around 60 per week through to mid-October.

Kevin Brady, HR director for Openreach, said: “Everyone wonders what it might be like to work for a company when they apply for a job, but we’re giving people the ability to physically see it and experience it for themselves.

“We get people from all walks of life applying for roles at Openreach, and an increasing number of women wanting to be engineers, which is fantastic,” he said. “Becoming an engineer can be a very rewarding career choice, and of course some aspects of the job are both mentally and physically challenging.

“We know, for example, that climbing a pole for the first time can be daunting for new recruits, and that’s why we wanted to give people a real insight into what’s involved. Hopefully it will help them to make a more informed decision when they come to apply.”

Read more about VR for training and recruitment

Openreach chief executive Clive Selley added that Openreach customers and broadband users expected the installation of new lines, service activation and network repairs to take place faster than ever, so adding more engineers to proactive maintenance roles could help fix more problems before users noticed them.

As part of the wider BT Group, Openreach said it was still keen to further increase diversity in the workforce, and encouraged more women to consider a job in engineering.

BT recently extended its Step into Stem programme – a mentoring scheme pitched at teenage girls that it runs alongside Ericsson, O2 and Vodafone – for a further 12 months, after a successful pilot programme helped 18 young Londoners into the workforce.

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