NEW recruits to the local network business Openreach will be able to experience 360-degree simulation of life as an engineer, including climbing telephone poles and inspecting underground chambers.

Openreach yesterday announced an expansion of its engineering workforce with plans to recruit almost 200 trainees across Scotland, including Aberdeen, East Kilbride, Glasgow, Falkirk, Inverness, Stirling, Wick, Orkney and the Western Isles.

The company, part of the BT Group, will be offering full-time, permanent roles to extend its fibre broadband network, improve customer service and keep Scotland connected – part of a UK-wide initiative to hire 1500 trainees over the next eight months. And, in a ground-breaking approach to recruitment, potential candidates will be able to discover exactly what life as a field engineer is like using virtual reality (VR) headsets.

Openreach is trialling a VR exper-ience which enables interested applicants to don a headset and see how it feels to climb a telephone pole or explore a local exchange in immersive 3D and from a real engineer’s perspective.

An initial intake of 119 recruits across the UK is expected to join the company in April, with 60 more to be added each week until mid-October.

New trainees will undertake a 12-month learning programme which includes on-the-job experience and culminates in the attainment of an externally recognised qualifiation for IT, software and telecoms professionals.

Keith Brown, Scotland’s Economy, Jobs and Fair Work Secretary, said: “Working in partnership with Openreach, we are committed to extending connectivity across Scotland and these trainees will play a vital part in delivering this and other benefits to service users.

“These new engineers will be fully trained and able to work towards a professional qualification, boosting Scotland’s skilled engineering resource for the future.”

Openreach chief executive Clive Selley said: “Our customers need us to install new lines and repair our network faster than ever, and by increasing the number of people working on proactive network maintenance, we can fix more issues before people even notice them.

“We are also continuing to roll out superfast broadband services at scale and making big investments in our network to make ultrafast broadband available to up to 12 million homes by the end of 2020.

“We want to recruit the very best people to help us on that journey and our new trainee engineering roles will offer people the hands-on experience they need to succeed.”

Kevin Brady, the company’s human resources director, said: “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.”

The 360-degree videos are available to watch on Openreach’s YouTube channel and can be viewed on any PC, tablet or VR headset.