Openreach Apprentice Engineer Sarah McMaster, from Craigavon, is pictured alongside First Minister Arlene Foster, Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill and Mairead Meyer, Director Openreach NI.
Openreach, Northern Ireland’s (NI) largest digital infrastructure provider, has announced a commitment to invest over £100 million in capital expenditure over the next 12 months.
They say the invest would support the maintenance of Openreach’s existing copper and fibre networks as well as its ultrafast Full Fibre broadband network build programme which forms part of its existing plan to build Full Fibre to 20 million premises across the UK by the mid to late 2020s.
Openreach, currently employs more than 1,000 people in roles across NI, has been building its ultrafast Full Fibre broadband network at pace over the last 18 months.
Now more than 65% of properties in the region, over 530,000 homes and businesses, can access ultra-reliable broadband at speeds of up to 1Gbps on Openreach’s network – making NI the most digitally connected region in the UK.
With the dramatic escalation in both demand for and usage of online services over the last year, greater access to fast, reliable, and future-proofed connections will be central to economic recovery and long-term socioeconomic growth in NI.
As part of Openreach’s £100 million investment, ultrafast Full Fibre broadband will be built to at least 100,000 additional premises in NI in the coming year, which will support even greater digital connectivity in the region. This will include premises in rural towns and villages spanning the length and breadth of NI.
As part of today’s announcement, Openreach has also unveiled plans to recruit 100 new apprentices in 2021/22, who will all receive 18 months’ training and an NVQ before graduating as fully qualified engineers. The new recruits will play a role in the ultrafast Full Fibre broadband build as well as working to manage and maintain the Openreach network - keeping critical services, homes and businesses connected.
Mairead Meyer, Director of Openreach in Northern Ireland, commented: “As a major employer and the largest infrastructure builder in NI, we believe Openreach can play an important role in helping the region to build back better and stronger.
“We know that full deployment of ultrafast Full Fibre broadband by 2025 could boost the NI economy by £1.3 billion and employment by 1.6%. We also know that the network we’re building will deliver even greater benefits in terms of levelling up connectivity to provide economic and social rebalancing across the region as well as having green benefits by enabling more home working and fewer commuting trips.
“Our ultrafast Full Fibre broadband network build is rolling out at pace, with 65% of premises in NI, including 75% of those within the capital of Belfast, now able to access Full Fibre on our network. We’ve ambitious plans in place to continue to drive this forward over the coming months and this investment will support these efforts.
“We’re now looking for more people to join our multi-generational team and to build a career at Openreach and I’m delighted to announce a further 100 new apprentice roles in the coming year. We take great pride in being an inclusive and diverse place to work, creating a supportive working environment and providing opportunities for development and growth.
“We’re encouraging anyone, no matter their background or experience, to apply and join us on the journey to build a network that will support the people of Northern Ireland for decades to come.”