Openreach creates 4,000 jobs for broadband rollout

BT Openreach

Openreach is to create 4,000 jobs this year as part of its plans to expand its full-fibre broadband across the UK.

The company said the new roles, which include 3,000 apprenticeships, would help its bid to reach 25 million homes and businesses by the end of 2026.

But the recruitment drive comes amid strong competition for workers, which has seen firms pay more for new staff.

A report found starting salaries were rising due to a scarcity of candidates in the UK labour market.

The Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) and consultancy firm KPMG said a survey of 400 recruitment agencies suggested demand for staff was continuing to grow after the easing of pandemic restrictions.

Openreach’s hiring spree comes after the company, which is owned by BT, recruited 2,500 people for engineering jobs last year, of which 600 trainee engineers were women.

The company employs 35,000 people and said it was committed to building a more diverse workforce. It has previously consulted language experts to make sure job adverts are gender neutral.

Clive Selley, chief executive of Openreach, said the company had built training schools “all over the country where we can teach people the skills and techniques they need for long, exciting and rewarding careers in engineering”.

“We want to reflect the communities we serve and give opportunities to people from all backgrounds, so I’m encouraged that we’ve recruited more women and minority groups this year compared to last year, but we’ve got much more to do in an industry that hasn’t been very diverse historically,” he added.

Openreach’s £12bn broadband expansion project has been accelerated in part due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The government previously estimated that with a full-fibre optic broadband network available, nearly two million more people than previously calculated could choose to work from home in the long term, reducing transport and housing pressures in big cities and boosting local and rural economies.

Many firms are struggling to recruit workers, with vacancies at a record high of 1.2 million.

According to the director of the Institute for Employment Studies, the pandemic has caused the UK labour market to shrink.

Openreach said told the BBC it had not increased its salaries despite the increase in inflation, but said a pay review was coming up in April.

It said new trainee engineers start on £21,845 per year and recruits can earn up to £28,353 after 12 months of specialist training.

Openreach also plans to retrain more than 3,000 of its existing engineers during the next year to move on from fixing older, copper-based technologies, to installing and maintaining fibre connections.