Broadband infrastructure giant Openreach has said it plans to hire over 100 apprentice engineers over the next eight months.
penreach said the intake of apprentices is double that of 2019 and a “substantial investment” in the economy.
The apprentice engineers will be recruited to help deliver Openreach’s full fibre build plan.
It aims to bring its broadband technology to 525,000 premises by the end of next March, which it says will help support economic recovery and long-term growth. It has now reached 360,000 homes, more than 40% of the network.
The company is the infrastructure division of BT.
NI Openreach director Mairead Meyer said the company already employed over 1,000 people in the region.
“Our new recruits will join our dynamic engineering team at a really interesting time for Openreach and help support our ambition to deliver the best possible connectivity to everyone, everywhere, across the province,” she said.
“We are continuing to build full fibre broadband to over 750 homes and businesses every day.
“Openreach is one of the biggest investors in infrastructure in Northern Ireland.
“I am really delighted that in the midst of the current situation we are still able to progress with our apprenticeship development programme doubling the number of places available from last year.”
Angela McGowan, CBI Northern Ireland director, said the hiring of the apprentices was “hugely welcome”.
“The trainees will help deliver infrastructure essential to drive long-term growth in the region and keep it at the forefront of digital technology. This will help develop key skills needed by employers as well as support economic recovery,” she said.
“It’s fantastic to see this programme is open to all, from school leavers to those looking for a career change.”
The apprentice programme runs over 18 months and the roles will be located across Northern Ireland. Apprentices will be awarded an NVQ through Belfast Metropolitan College.
Mrs Meyer explained the lockdown had brought home the importance of broadband as people working from home and home-school their children.
“Unsurprisingly, there has been a substantial increase in daytime traffic on the network,” she said.
“Even after the Covid-19 crisis ends, we know that demand is going to continue to increase, especially for full fibre broadband.
“We have already seen orders for full fibre installations nearly double on pre-lockdown levels. However, we know we can meet this demand, and having our new apprentices on board will really help as we look to the future.”
Along with Fibrus, Openreach is one of two bidders in the running to deliver broadband to around 80,000 mainly rural homes under the Government’s £165m Project Stratum.
May 5 was the deadline for submission of tenders under Projet Stratum, while an announcement on the award of the contract is expected in late September.
The Centre for Business and Economic Research has said that connecting everyone in Northern Ireland to full fibre broadband by 2025 would bring a £1.3bn boost to the economy.