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BT Openreach to recruit 16-year-olds

Demand for unbundling engineers has left BT's access offshoot scrambling to keep up
Written by David Meyer, Contributor

BT is to take on 400 apprentices, some aged as young as 16, to be trained as telecoms engineers at Openreach.

Claiming it is the "largest apprenticeship drive in the UK telecoms industry at the moment", BT is offering "unrivalled opportunities for training and development" for keen applicants who enjoy "helping people and solving problems" and are not colour blind.

Openreach is the company that was split off from the rest of BT last year — at the insistence of the regulator Ofcom — to help other broadband providers get more of an equal footing by installing their own equipment in BT's exchanges, a process called local loop unbundling (LLU).

Its efficiency in aiding the LLU process has been much questioned recently, and only last week BT had to ask Ofcom's permission to temporarily transfer 150 engineers from BT Global Services to Openreach. This request was granted under strict conditions, because the two organisations are meant to operate independently.

"[This recruitment drive] is part of the same overall programme to allocate additional resources to allow Openreach to keep up with the huge demand we're seeing in broadband," a spokesperson told ZDNet UK on Friday, while pointing out that the UK will soon have a million unbundled lines.

The spokesperson admitted that the popularity of unbundling had "exceeded expectations" and said the loan of 150 Global Services engineers "made sense as we already had this pool of skilled engineers that were ready trained and could come in and provide resources very quickly".

"The apprenticeship drive just really recognises the fact that the broadband and the LLU market in general is really taking off," the spokesperson said.

Although those interested can register now, the recruitment drive will start in earnest in February.

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