Telecoms apprenticeships in Cumbria begin government-funded training

Broadband provider Fibrus and network build partner Viberoptix commit to at least 90 telecoms apprenticeships will offer permanent jobs to those who complete course. 

Young people from Cumbria have begun their apprenticeships at the new Viberoptix Training Academy in Newton Rigg near Penrith. Over coming months, they will gain formal qualifications in telecoms, specific training and field-based experience in a range of roles from underground and overhead cabling to surveying. The aim is to provide them with the skills and expertise needed for long-term careers in the sector. 

Broadband apprentices start their training in Cumbria, photo courtesy of Fibrus

Broadband apprentices start their training in Cumbria, photo courtesy of Fibrus

The apprenticeship scheme is the latest development in the government’s £5bn Project Gigabit, with the intention of delivering lightning-fast, reliable broadband to rural areas of the UK. Working with broadband suppliers, the target is to achieve gigabit coverage to 85% of the UK by 2025 and nationwide coverage by 2030. 

We seem to be well on course to meet these targets, with a government estimate of more than 77% of homes and businesses able to access a gigabit-capable broadband connection – a huge leap since the figure of just 6% in 2019.  

Sir John Whittingdale, Minister for Data and Digital Infrastructure, says: ‘Ultra-fast, reliable broadband is transforming the way we connect with each other and do business, and creating exciting opportunities in the UK’s growing telecoms industry. These apprentices kick-starting their careers here at Newton Rigg are just the first who will be gaining the skills and expertise to take up good jobs and help accelerate the rollout of high-speed broadband in Cumbria. 

‘Our partnerships with businesses like Fibrus and Viberoptix are spurring investment in local communities and securing a pipeline of talent for years to come, backed by £108 million in Government funding to deliver lightning-fast broadband connectivity across Cumbria and level up the county’s digital infrastructure.’ 

Tom Balcombe, 32, is one of the new apprentices at Newton Rigg. He says: ‘During Covid I got a job in security, working at a supermarket in Penrith. But I had been looking for a new career path, and I already knew a little about working in telecoms. At the end of this programme, I want to go out, do overhead cabling and splicing fibre. I am looking forward to gaining a trade – you can never go wrong if you have a trade. This training has piqued my interest massively and it’s a huge gamechanger.’ 

Another apprentice, Will Norendal, 22, adds: ‘I have wanted to make a career out of something and telecoms sounds good – I have always been a computer nerd and think this could be quite fun. I am only 22 so have only ever done odd jobs. I want a career now and everyone wants to move up in the world, don’t they? This training is very interesting – I want to go into telecoms, it is what my mind is set on now, especially now I am gaining this experience. It is something I want to pursue for the rest of my life.’ 

Linda McMillan, Chief People Officer at Fibrus, said: ‘Broadband connectivity is more important than ever and is crucial to levelling-up rural communities to give those in rural areas the same opportunities as those in bigger cities. We are proud of how our full fibre broadband rollout is progressing in Cumbria, and when we invest in a region, we ensure we go beyond providing much needed affordable high-speed broadband.  

‘The enrolment of the first apprentices at Newton Rigg this summer is a testament to our commitment to local communities. Alongside offering people in Cumbria essential full-fibre broadband connections, we’re committed to supporting the region with community grants, job creation and training opportunities. I am delighted that we’re creating new career pathways for local apprentices this year through our trusted partner Viberoptix.’ 

Claire McCay, HR Director at Viberoptix, adds: ‘We are delighted to welcome our first cohort of apprentices to our purpose-built Training Academy in Penrith. We know the history of Newton Rigg college and we’re proud to be able to bring a training facility back to the site, offering training and development and job opportunities to the local community.  

‘Our aim is to build for the future, not just building a fibre network, but helping people build their careers and futures in the telecoms industry. We recognise the importance and the impact that this UK government project will have on Cumbria, and we’re proud to be a part of it alongside Fibrus.’ 

In related news:

27 recommendations for local authorities to become connectivity enablers

£20m from UK Space Agency for drones and other tech to connect remote areas

Multimillion-pound Project Gigabit contracts in Hampshire, Norfolk and Suffolk


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