A new training centre has been opened in Liskeard to support the next generation of telecommunication engineers.

The Wildanet Technical Training Academy is a home-grown answer to providing a cutting-edge training facilities and programmes vital for the region’s digital future, social inclusion and economic growth, not previously available in Cornwall and Devon.

The academy includes an industry-leading ‘pole field‘ – the only facility of its kind in the South West – where engineers can be safely trained in scaling and operating on utility (or telegraph) poles up 9m (30ft) tall.

The facility, based at Wildanet’s Westbourne House headquarters, in Liskeard, was officially opened by South East Cornwall MP Sheryll Murray, who described the project as “inspirational”.

Guests at the event were joined by the trailblazing group of five apprentices who are the first to embark on the new Telecoms Field Operative Apprenticeship programme developed by Wildanet in partnership with Truro and Penwith College. A further five apprentices are set to join next month.

Ms Murray said: “Wildanet’s ambition, values and forward-thinking approach is transforming digital connectivity in Cornwall, creating inward investment, much-needed quality jobs locally and supporting the Government’s wider strategy to roll-out gigabit-enabled broadband nationally.

“It is incredibly exciting to see a Cornwall-based business become such a leading advocate for new technology and the social and economic opportunities this brings. I applaud Wildanet for the work they are doing to connect communities across Cornwall and Devon and for their far-sighted investment in developing this inspirational new Academy.”

Helen Wylde, Wildanet CEO, said: “I want to acknowledge and praise the hard work and dedication of all those within the Wildanet team and our partners who have helped make it a reality.”

Julie-anne Sunderland, chief people officer for Wildanet, has been instrumental in establishing the Wildanet Academy and in the development of the first Apprenticeship programme with Truro and Penwith College.

 Julie-anne said: “To date, without travelling outside of the county, there has not been an opportunity for anyone in Cornwall to access the type of training facilities and programmes that our academy is now able to deliver. It’s a first for Cornwall and opens the door to a wealth of career opportunities, whilst enabling us to maintain the expert skills of our existing workforce without them having to travel away from home.”

The academy is led by Ian Carmichael, supported by a team of instructors and mentors across the business.

It features a full suite of state-of-the-art equipment to train engineers in the theoretical and practical aspects of dealing with fibre installation, including network infrastructure and domestic installation; safely working with underground services and at height; and using microscope-based specialist equipment to splice and test individual strands of fibre optic cable.

Apprentices will also hone their skills at Truro and Penwith College’s new STEM and Health Skills Centre in Bodmin.

The pole field features six poles with barge boards to simulate a solid structure, and eight poles covering the various types engineers can expect to encounter in the field and means for the first time, this type of training can be delivered in Cornwall, rather than having to travel out of the South West and sometimes as far afield as Lincoln.