Published: 08:25, 18 December 2020
| Updated: 09:17, 18 December 2020
The Chancellor of the Exchequer has praised a digital infrastructure firm for creating new jobs during the pandemic.
Openreach has bucked the economic trend and will introduce 5,300 new engineering roles across the country, 112 of them in Kent.
The new positions will enable the company to continue improving service levels across its existing networks, whilst building and connecting customers to its new 'Full Fibre' broadband network.
It will include more than 2,500 full-time jobs in Openreach's own service and network build divisions, as well as an estimated 2,800 positions in its UK supply chain, through partners such as Kelly Group, Kier, MJ Quinn and Telent.
This comes after the firm hit a record build rate for its new broadband programme – which aims to reach 20 million homes and businesses by the mid-to-late 2020s.
According to the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr), a nationwide Full Fibre broadband network would boost UK productivity by £59 billion by 2025.
The pandemic has accelerated changes in working patterns and, with full fibre, nearly two million more people than previously estimated could also choose to work from home in the long term.
It could reduce transport and housing pressures in big cities and boost local and rural economies across the country.
Openreach regional director, Laura Whelan, said: "As a major employer and infrastructure builder, we believe Openreach can play a leading role in helping the UK to build back better and greener.
"Our Full Fibre network build is going faster than ever and we're now looking for people across the South East to build a career with Openreach and help us upgrade broadband connections and continue improving service levels throughout the region.
"We know the network we're building can deliver a host of green benefits – from consuming less power to enabling more home working and fewer commuting trips - and we're going to take that a step further, by committing to build and maintain that network using state of the art electric vehicles across our 27,000-strong fleet."
Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, said: "Throughout this crisis I've been clear that our number one economic priority is to protect jobs, so I'm delighted to welcome this announcement of 5,000 new skilled roles.
"We're investing billions of pounds across the UK as part of our Plan for Jobs to ensure nobody is left without hope or opportunity."
Openreach already employs more than 34,500 people, including more than 25,000 engineers who build, maintain and connect customers to its nationwide broadband network.
Of these, more than 4,800 live and/or work in the South East.
Over the last two years, it has also created more than 6,500 trainee engineering roles to support its build programme and to deliver improved customers service.
The new trainee apprenticeship roles will be filled during 2021 and come with a starting salary of £21,845.
Recruits can be earning up to £28,353 following 12 months of specialist training to achieve an NVQ level 2, in one of Openreach's training centres.
To find out more about becoming an Openreach engineer, click here.