Dr Neil Hudson MP celebrated the first cohort of apprentices starting their professional journey at Newton Rigg, Penrith, following UK Government investment to accelerate broadband rollout in Cumbria.
Learning and earning at the same time, new apprentices are the first of at least 90 trainees specialising in everything from surveying to cabling. All apprentices are set to be offered permanent employment on completion of their training.
The apprenticeships are part of the Government’s Project Gigabit which is investing more than £100 to roll out lightning-fast broadband across Cumbria.
Led by broadband provider Fibrus, alongside network build partner Viberoptix, the Training Academy at Newton Rigg, Penrith has opened its doors with local young people gaining formal qualifications and training in industry-specific careers.
Dr Hudson has long campaigned on the issue of digital connectivity which can all-too-often hinder opportunity in rural areas. He’s made speeches in the Commons, met with Ministers and worked alongside Government and industry to make lightning-fast broadband a reality in Cumbria.
Dr Neil Hudson MP said:
“I’m delighted to celebrate the opening of a brand-new purpose-built Training Academy on our doorstep. Apprenticeships lead to jobs, jobs lead to local investment which in turn grows the local economy and sees benefit spread right across our part of the world.
“This is great news, not just for the local people upskilling themselves in a future-proof industry, but for wider communities set to benefit from the fastest commercially available internet speeds.
“Local Government investment is key to unlocking rural economic potential and spreading opportunity right across the nation.”
The government investment forms part of its national Project Gigabit, a £5 billion mission to deliver lightning-fast, reliable broadband to people across the UK, working with broadband suppliers to achieve 85% gigabit coverage of the UK by 2025, and then to nationwide coverage by 2030. It is levelling-up the UK, making sure that people have the same access to fast and reliable connectivity wherever they live, work and study.
Minister for Data and Digital Infrastructure, Sir John Whittingdale, added:
"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 highspeed 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.”
More than 76% of homes and businesses can now access a gigabit-capable broadband connection, a huge increase from just 6% in 2019. In Cumbria, the rollout of the Project Gigabit contract continues to make good progress, with residents and businesses in communities from Aspatria to Staveley now able to access and enjoy lightning-fast connections through Fibrus networks.
Project Gigabit will also help grow the economy, with new digital infrastructure delivering better-paid jobs and creating opportunity right across the country. At Newton Rigg, Tom Balcombe, a 32-year-old from nearby Penrith, explained that he is excited to start his training:
“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.”
Tom is excited to be joined in his cohort, the first at new-look Newton Rigg, by Will Norendal, a 22-year-old from Penrith who hopes to enjoy a long career in the industry, as he explained:
“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, said:
“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.”