DIGITAL network business Openreach has today (Thursday) announced that it will create and fill more than 400 more jobs in the South West during 2022 – nearly 300 of them apprenticeships – as it continues to invest billions of pounds into its UK broadband network, people and training.

The new recruits will be based in every county across the region, working to build and connect customers to the company’s ultrafast, ultra-reliable Full Fibre broadband network. It says the mammoth build is on track to reach 25 million UK homes and businesses by December 2026 and has already reached nearly 600,000 properties in the South West.

The hiring spree – 4,000 new jobs are being created across the UK asa whole – is part of the largest recruitment drive in Openreach’s history and will also help deliver further improvements in customer satisfaction, which is at a record high.

With a workforce of 3,500 across the South West, Openreach already employs the UK’s largest team of telecoms engineers and professionals and has committed to building a more diverse and inclusive team in an industry which has traditionally been very white and male-dominated.

The company says it has also had a record year for hiring women: 19% of South West engineers hired in 2021 were women, against a target of 20% for the coming year.

Last year, the company attracted 600 women into trainee engineering roles – more than double the previous year. The boost was thanks partly to employing language experts from Exeter University to transform its job adverts and descriptions, making them gender-neutral.

Clive Selley, CEO, Openreach, said: “Openreach is a people business first and foremost, so I’m proud that we’re continuing to invest heavily in our people, having hired and trained more than 8,000 new engineers over the last two years. We’re rightly recognised as one of the best big companies to work for in the UK, and we’re determined to stay that way, so we’ve been building state of the art training schools all over the country where we can teach people the skills and techniques they need for long, exciting and rewarding careers in engineering.

“We want to reflect the communities we serve and give opportunities to people from all backgrounds, so I’m encouraged that we’ve recruited more women and minority groups this year compared to last year, but we’ve got much more to do in an industry that hasn’t been very diverse historically.

“These new recruits will play a crucial role as we continue to improve services for our customers and build the biggest and best broadband network in the UK, covering millions of rural and urban homes.”

Openreach says the new roles offer a very competitive starting salary and long-term career prospects, but candidates don’t need any formal qualifications to apply. All you need is a driving licence, a strong work ethic, great customer service skills and an enthusiasm to work outdoors – Openreach will give you all the equipment and training you need to do the rest. Click here for a full list of employee benefits.

Alongside its recruitment drive, Openreach has committed to represent ONS measured levels of ethnic diversity across the UK and is aiming for at least 20 per cent of its trainee engineer recruits to be women this year. By that time, 50 per cent of its external hires into management will also be women by 2025.

Openreach also plans to retrain more than 3,000 of its existing engineers during the next year – changing their focus from fixing older, copper-based technologies to installing and maintaining faster, more reliable fibre connections.

Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Nadine Dorries, recently opened the company’s newest training centre in Thornaby which is the latest of 11 regional training schools it has built and upgraded across the UK. Around 25,000 engineers pass through these centres every year across the UK, receiving a combined 180,000 days in training. Openreach’s regional learning centre in Exeter expects to deliver 11,000 training days during the 2022/23 financial year.