With VR, Openreach asks job applicants to climb telephone pole ‘virtually’


Telecoms firm Openreach will use virtual reality headsets to show job candidates what it’s like to be a field engineer, the company revealed today.

In a major expansion of its engineering workforce, Openreach plans to recruit 1,500 trainees over the next eight months to extend the operation of its fibre broadband network.

The company is trialling a virtual reality (VR) headset that allows job applicants to experience climbing a telephone pole or exploring the local exchange building in immersive 3D from the perspective of a real engineer.

It is expected that an initial intake of 119 recruits will join the company in April, followed by around 60 new recruits joining each week through to mid-October. Openreach is aiming to make ultrafast broadband available to 12 million homes by the end of 2020.

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New trainees will embark on a tailored 12 month accredited learning programme – including on-the-job experience and culminating with the attainment of an externally recognised qualification for IT, software and telecoms professionals.

Culture secretary Karen Bradley said: “The government’s £1.7 billion rollout programme has helped take superfast broadband to more than nine out of ten homes and businesses in the UK and we are reaching thousands more every week.

“Openreach engineers have played a pivotal role in helping deliver this, and these 1,500 new recruits will be a fantastic addition to our thriving digital economy.”

VR videos include an engineer’s eye view from the top of a telephone pole, a virtual tour of a telephone exchange and a look inside a green roadside cabinet.

Openreach, which has hired 5,000 engineers and more than 900 apprentices and graduates over the last four years, intends to trial the VR experience in-person with potential applicants at recruitment roadshows and events throughout the year.

The company is keen to recruit more female engineers. It recently joined forces with other technology firms to create a mentoring scheme, Step into STEM, encouraging schoolgirls to pursue science, technology, engineering and mathematics careers.

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Kevin Brady, HR director at Openreach, added: “Everyone wonders what it might be like to work for a company when they apply for a job, but we’re giving people the ability to physically see it and experience it for themselves.

“We get people from all walks of life applying for roles at Openreach and an increasing number of women wanting to be engineers, which is fantastic. Becoming an engineer can be a very rewarding career choice, and of course some aspects of the job are both mentally and physically challenging.

“We know for example that climbing a pole for the first time can be daunting for new recruits, and that’s why we wanted to give people a real insight into what’s involved. Hopefully it will help them to make a more informed decision when they come to apply.”

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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