‘Openstreet’ shows the way ahead for Openreach training
Telecoms & Financial Services, Openreach October 25 2018A resounding thumbs up has been given by the CWU to an innovative new approach to training in Openreach that seeks to better prepare new recruits and existing engineers receiving refresher/ upskilling training for the real-life challenges they will face in the field.
Complementing classroom learning – which itself has been made far more ‘realistic’ than it ever was before – the first of 12 new facilities that seek to mimic the actual environment that engineers operate in once they are unleashed on the streets opened in Bradford earlier this year.
Centred around a formerly disused Motor Transport Workshop at the Legrams Lane exchange, which now contains realistic mock-ups of an exchange and the types of commercial and residential premises that engineers are routinely called to, Bradford’s ‘Openstreet’ provides a tantalising foretaste of an innovative training blueprint that is currently in the process of being rolled out across the country.
Training in Openreach has always been highly practical – as evidenced by the ‘pole fields’ that grace the skyline of all of its major training facilities.
What makes Openstreet different, however, is that it seeks to replicate a complete end-to-end network for all circuit types – fibre as well as copper – allowing for ‘real’ scenarios to be created for students, including blocked ducts, open joints and intermittent faults.
But the ‘realism’ of Openstreet goes beyond the compressing of an entire end-to-end network – that in the real world would cover many miles – into a single location.
Because as part of the £8 million investment that will see 11 more ‘Openstreets’ open across the country by 2021, great efforts have been made to accurately represent the challenges thrown up by different physical environments in which engineers are routinely required to work in.
As such, the mock-ups of customer premises include a business with raised floors and suspended ceilings and homes with different fascia types (brick, wooden and plastic boarding) and frontages (grass, paving, gravel and notoriously slippery decking) that present differing challenges, especially, when ladders are used.
Small touches even include the addition of hanging baskets on one property – a response to a number of incidents where engineers have banged their heads when standing up after working beneath the suspended floral appendages!
The mock-up homes also have different internal floor types, ranging from carpets to laminates and tiles, allowing conversations about the issues posed for engineers when entering customer premises if they are wearing muddy boots.
“Realism is what this is all about,” stresses Openreach’s head of learning & development Mark Rainbow. “Inside the classroom we are trying to introduce more of the things that engineers will come across – and added realism is provided by going over to Openstreet at the point of need in any training course.”
Following feedback from seasoned engineers, Mark stressed that, as the Openstreet concept develops, the aim will be to take the realism even further. While Bradford’s Openstreet is inside, most of the others will be open to the elements – arguably providing trainees with an even more accurate representation of life in the field.
“At the moment the facility in Bradford is still quite clean, but we’re looking to introduce mud and litter,” Mark continues.
And while none of the manholes in Bradford’s Openstreet have any water in them at present, that is also something that is being considered, not just to accurately reflect real-life working environments but also to facilitate conversations about the need for awareness of the danger of water-borne infections including Weil’s disease.
Work in progress
Following on from Bradford, the next fully-fledged Openstreet will open at the regional training facility in Peterborough by the end of November, with a smaller ‘mini Openstreet’ also to be launched shortly at Yarnfield Park.
These will be supplemented by new Openstreets in Bolton and Livingstone in February – and seven more to follow at other regional training centres over the next two years. A search is currently underway for a suitable site for a twelfth Openreach somewhere along the M4 corridor.
Commending Openreach for not just the scale of the investment it is making in engineering training – but also the thought being put into making sure that training genuinely prepares individuals for the challenges they will face in the field – assistant secretary Davie has no doubt that the national rollout of ‘Openstreets’ will provide for a significantly improved training experience.
“That’s important for not just the new recruits coming into the business, but also for when our existing members are being upskilled for the move to fibre across the country,” he stresses.
As such, Davie points out the major investment in learning and development that Openreach is currently making accords well with longstanding CWU demands for the provision of the best possible training packages.
That enthusiasm was fully shared by a delegation of the CWU’s Openreach SPOCs (single points of contact) who visited the Bradford facility last week. (See quotes below)
Mark Elwen, SPOC for desk-based functions:
“What I was really impressed with was not just the hardware but also the philosophy behind the change in the style of teaching and the efforts to make it as realistic to the job as possible.
Paul Clark, SPOC for the South West:
“It’s a good set up because it gives trainees a real-life feel to the job rather than the training being entirely classroom-based. Although the Bradford Openstreet is inside a lot of them are going to be outside, and that’s important because when you are sat in a wet manhole it’s very different from being sat in a nice dry classroom.”
Paul O’Hagan, SPOC for the North West
“The value of training in a real environment rather than in a totally theoretical environment is obvious, as it puts people in the right place when they go out into
the real world. The one word of caution I’d make is that people will still need follow-up support to back up what they’ve learnt in the training centres.”
Viv Heys, SPOC for the North East:
“A lot of thought has clearly gone into this, and I think it’s superb that they are making courses more interactive. Realism in training is important – I always liken it to learning to drive, because you can do all the theory but it is only when you start putting that theory into practice that the learning truly begins.”
Dave Paterson, SPOC for Scotland:
“This definitely represents a big step forward on where we were before with training and it will give people a headstart when they actually get out into the field and meet exactly these circumstances. The Openstreet in Livingstone is going to be outside and I think that will make it even more realistic.”
Jeffrey Till, SPOC for London:
“I think Openstreet is superb and I wish we’d had something like this when we were going through training. It’s all about making it realistic for the guys and girls before they are out in the street. It’s good that some of the other Openstreets are going to be outdoors – because that will make them even more realistic.”
Gordon Mason, SPOC for the Eastern region:
“I think Openstreet is excellent. Realism was the first thing that was lacking with training many years ago – it didn’t really emulate what it’s like working in the field and they’ve really tried to address that. I think they’ve really captured it – it’s never going to be 100 per cent, but it’s bloody close.”
Paul McGrath, SPOC for the Midlands:
“Compared to when I started in 2004 the training facilities are excellent, so this is a real step change. People coming through this training are going to be far better equipped for the real world.”