A project to extend high-speed broadband to 97% of homes and businesses across West Yorkshire is getting a helping hand from a team of budding BT apprentices.
And Cleckheaton teenager James Crossley is among the 66 trainees involved in the Superfast West Yorkshire project.
The group is being trained and given the skills to install and maintain fibre broadband, alongside gaining a BTEC Level 3 Diploma in ICT Systems and Principles over two-and-a-half years.
James, 19, joined BT’s local network business Openreach last summer – attracted by the idea of “learning and earning” on the job while working towards a recognised qualification.
He has already gained experience helping to connect people’s homes to the new fibre-enabled green roadside cabinets.
James said: “It’s great seeing people’s reactions when they switch on their computer and see how quickly they can do things. I have fibre at home and so that helps when you’re explaining to customers the things you can do with high-speed broadband.”
James, who is a keen model maker, has used his modelling skills to teach other new recruits. In his spare time, James built a detailed model of the broadband network to help other apprentices visualise and remember the different joints and connections on which they work as engineers.
James said: “I realised that it can be daunting trying to visualise all the different joints if you only have them explained in words.
“Being able to see accurate mini-versions of the joints on the model helps you to remember everything you need to do much more easily.”
His bosses were so impressed that his model has been adopted by one of Openreach’s apprentice training centres.
James is currently learning how to connect up and maintain BT’s copper phone lines and admitted his biggest challenge so far was more of a physical than a technical one.
He said: “I’m fine with connecting up the wires and working inside a cabinet, but part of my training for being able to connect a phone line involved being able work up a telegraph pole.
“The first time I went up it was pretty nerve wracking. You have to lean out in a safety harness while you’re working at the top of the pole and that was a bit scary at first but now I love it and its one of my favourite things to do.”
James said: “I’ve really enjoyed my first year and I’m looking forward to where this job will take me next. Eventually I’d quite like to get into training and teaching other apprentices.”
Tom Keeney, BT’s regional director for Yorkshire and Humber, said: “Young people like James are at the forefront of the fibre revolution that will drive future economic growth across West Yorkshire whilst at the same time changing for the better the way people communicate, learn to do business and enjoy their spare time.”
Calderdale, Leeds, Bradford and Wakefield councils are working with BT to bring fibre broadband to premises not currently included in the private sector’s commercial roll-out plans.