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What is the right number of Openreach engineers?
Wednesday 28 March 2012 13:07:58 by Andrew Ferguson

Openreach announced a recruitment programme back in May 2011 to expand the number of engineers that directly worked for it, and for some tasks like swap-outs of the VDSL modems they have sub-contracted this work to firms like Kelly Communications.

It seems that Lorne Mitchell an ex-BT executive has been urging parliament to start a national apprenticeship scheme to boost broadband roll-outs to ensure roll-out deadlines are met.

With some 4,000 engineers employed on the task, and the FTTC/P work going on progressively at some 1,450 exchanges (Openreach has a total of around 5,500 exchanges), employing more could be seen as a wise move if roll-out speed needed to be increased. Alas the annoying delays some people experience are not caused by a lack of engineers, but things like planning permission in conservation areas, blockages in ducting that require road works to clear them, delays due to weather causing engineers to be re-tasked. During these delays a team will go to work on a cabinet elsewhere. In theory if enough installation teams were created, with all the relevant skills then roll-out would be faster, but a result of this will be that once roll-out completes early, Openreach will be left with 1000's of engineers with very little to do, or most likely the new apprentices would simply be shown the door after just a year or two of training and work.

If the assumption is that Openreach is going to get almost all the BDUK projects, then ensuring it has the staff to complete those would be sensible, and with the commercial investment by Openreach due to end in 2014, this should free up engineering staff to work on BDUK/Local Authority part funded deployments. Certainly the slow progress of roll-out in the final third is nothing to do with numbers of staff employed by Openreach.

Ask yourself this, is faster broadband so important, that you are willing to pay more to allow a company to employ more staff, or are you happy to wait for the 12 to 18 months if you leave in the two-thirds of the UK likely to covered commercially, and for the next 25% waiting perhaps up to three years. The remaining 10% per cent or so of the population, as the Government ambitions stand currently are not going to see fibre unless it is a DIY solution.


Posted by herdwick over 5 years ago
Most companies would expect to buy in some or all of the extra labour required for a large capital project. The skills for doing installation and new build aren't always the same as those for operation, diagnosis and repair so taking on lots of permanent staff doesn't make a whole lot of sense.

There are several subcontractor companies active on FTTC projects, perhaps the BT Alumni & Retirement Society need to get up to date with modern business practices.
Posted by vicdupreez over 5 years ago
So employ them on a contract basis, with the understanding that they will get training, but when the work is finished it is finished, and you walk away with a new skill. I would be tempted to staff this out of people on the dole... If I had anything to do with it... which I do not... Also build in some sort of bonus program to stop any sort of lets do this slowly so we have work for longer attitudes...
Posted by GMAN99 over 5 years ago
vicdupreez , you are assuming those on the dole actually want to work many don't they are happy to sponge off the estate
Posted by GMAN99 over 5 years ago
* that should have been state but I suppose estate works equally as well :)
Posted by herdwick over 5 years ago
Openreach have been advertising for individual contractors to work for them, as opposed to Telent et al.

Short or fixed term contracting isn't appealing to everyone.
Posted by creakycopperline over 5 years ago
Gman99, what a very narrow minded person you are.
Posted by GMAN99 over 5 years ago
Not at all, you've not been watching the many documentaries on the subject then?

I'm not even saying its their fault, some people earn less working than claiming, anyway... off topic.
Posted by creakycopperline over 5 years ago
i know that Action 4 enslavemnent are just as guilty of wasting taxpayers money, working on crap rate and getting taxed for it, you wonder why it doesn't appeal to them. not exactly an great attaction just think you could assitant manager of Lidl's in four years... oh wow
Posted by chrysalis over 5 years ago
gman99 if documentaries are your only source you a bit of a goon been so easily manipulated. its off otpic yes, but since you brought it up most will obviously want to work rather than been treated like dirt and having to live off pennies. The question is are we willing to pay more? the answer is its a moot question as we probably wont have a choice to pay more.
Posted by GMAN99 over 5 years ago
At what point did I say "only source" ? My eyes are open please don't assume otherwise.

No I don't think people would pay more to speed up the roll out people have enough money woes as it is with the current government taxing us all to oblivion.
Posted by leexgx over 5 years ago
the roil out could be quicker (with they would do Warrington exchange as 30% of it is network is degraded below 0.5-2mb speeds lucky we have VM here) they seem to be doing the smaller ones first
i partly agree with GMAN99 but "sponge off the estate" not so much but some do

i could if i wanted to right now just give up working for my self and live off my DLA and income support as TBO i most likely get more money and less hassle from HMRC, as i have an friend right now and he has the issue that he needs to be earning more then £15k to move off income support
Posted by leexgx over 5 years ago
(income support if i was not working, DLA i get always)
Posted by fibrebunny over 5 years ago
Well thanks to the rabid expansion of the welfare state under Labour. We do now have poor relief in the form of tax credits for the working poor. Those with an aggrieved sense of entitlement could always try breeding like a degenerate I suppose.
Posted by vicdupreez over 5 years ago
"as i have an friend right now and he has the issue that he needs to be earning more then £15k to move off income support"

This is the problem with the dole in the UK. I believe that (and shoot if you must) if you have been offered 2 jobs on jobseekers allowance, and you turned both down, or threw the interview, job seekers allowance, and ALL other benefits should go away. Do not misunderstand me... If someone REALLY can not work (which is a tiny percentage of the people on the dole) no problem, but if you are able bodied IN ANY WAY... pay your own damn way...
Posted by vicdupreez over 5 years ago
<rant>I am up to the gills with paying TAX on TAX on TAX just to keep Joe and Jill Dole in the style (maybe a bit strong) in which they have gotten accustomed to... Why should I pay more tax, just because I have a good job, have worked hard to get to the position that I am, to loose approximately an additional 15% in tax, just for the privilege.

Yank them off the dole, and use the extra cash to build a national fibre network... </rant>
Posted by creakycopperline over 5 years ago
my god there's certainly a lot of right wing hardliners here. using the unemployed as a scapegoat, when it was the casino bankers that got us into this fine mess. torys have brainwashed you well.
Posted by vicdupreez over 5 years ago
Just wanting them to work for my money... Just like I do...
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