The Independent Networks Cooperative Association (INCA) says the development of new engineers will be crucial to achieving the country’s connectivity goals

2020 began auspiciously for the UK fibre broadband industry, with the new government budget committing £5 billion to the rollout of full-fibre around the country. Fibre deployment was rapidly accelerating to meet the government’s target of gigabit broadband for all by 2025, but such positivity was short lived. Looming on the horizon was the coronavirus pandemic, the effects of which the UK will continue to feel for many years to come.


Revitalising a coronavirus-stricken economy is no easy task, but UK Chancellor’s Plan for Jobs, announced last week, goes some way to address the floundering job market across the country. 


“Our plan has a clear goal: to protect, support and create jobs. It will give businesses the confidence to retain and hire. To create jobs in every part of our country. To give young people a better start. To give people everywhere the opportunity of a fresh start,” said Chancellor Rishi Sunak. 


The Plan for Jobs includes various measures to support businesses, including incentivise the hiring of apprentices and investing heavily in infrastructure to create jobs.


However, INCA is warning that such measures may not be enough when it comes to overcoming the skilled engineer shortage and achieving the country’s broadband targets.


“We are pleased that the Chancellor has recognised the need to help provide young people with the basic skills to secure full-time work. Now we need the same commitment made to developing a new generation of engineering talent or we risk falling short of the 2025 gigabit broadband target by some way,” said INCA CEO Malcolm Corbett.


INCA said that it is currently working to identify its members’ training needs in order pass on this information to the government. 


The industry is already beginning to ramp up its fibre deployment efforts once again, with jobs being created as a by-product. CityFibre, for example, recently announced a three-year recruitment and training programme, looking to create up to 10,000 jobs. However, creating a fully trained engineer takes time and INCA argues that without government investment in training and apprenticeships could lead to a skills shortage when the country needs them most.


“The independent sector is fully committed and ready to help the government achieve its targets for broadband coverage in the UK, but it must also listen to the genuine concerns of those on the frontline,” Corbett added.


How are UK networks rising to the challenge of post-COVID-19 connectivity? Find out from the experts at this year’s Connected Britain

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