NEW online training courses are being used at the Bradford Openreach training centre, as part of a key investment by the digital infrastructure company.

In a typical year, around 5,000 network engineers pass through the centre in Bradford - a mix of new starters learning the ropes, alongside existing engineers receiving refresher training or new skills linked to new technologies.

During the last 12 months this number has more than halved as social distancing has reduced capacity at the school and made traditional classroom learning more difficult.

To help overcome this, a newly created virtual learning programme with 35 bite-sized modules, is being delivered from dedicated broadcast facilities created within each of Openreach's training centres.

These new studios have multiple cameras allowing the trainer to fully utilise equipment and show practical examples as if the people were in the room.

Mark Rainbow, Openreach’s senior manager for learning and development, said: “We’ve really had to adapt and re-think how we do things during the last 12 months. Training is a fundamental part of our business, from the obvious learning new skills angle, but also keeping our people safe by making sure they’re able to access vital health and safety material.

“We’ve got 11 training centres across the UK. Here in Bradford, we’d normally see around 5,000 people train here every year – a total of more than 6,000 learner days - and they’d be spread across the site including our 12 teaching rooms, two pole training fields, a cabling area and our mock-up street including houses, flats as well as overhead and underground networks.

“Whilst we had to reduce this capacity, we’ve worked hard to deliver sessions like first aid training and driver theory completely online. Many other courses are now split between in-person and online learning and it’s probably improved the way we’ll deliver training in the future, which is one positive to come from all of this.”

New virtual courses include pole testing, diagnosing broadband faults, and how to use engineering equipment such as handheld testers.

Trainee engineer, Glenn Armstrong, said: “When we were first coming into the training school, I was a little anxious about how it would all be laid out. But when we got here, it was really well laid out, I feel really safe, there are cleaning stations everywhere. There are no issues coming in to work and training.”

Since switching to deliver more training online, advantages have been found such as increased number of people able to train at once, sharing knowledge across the UK, and reduced mileage, travel time and travel costs for engineers.

As a result the firm is looking at delivering more more targeted courses that speed up results for things like accreditations and verifications.