Access & apprenticeships with the ITP

Crissi Williams is the CEO of the Institute of Telecommunications Professionals. The ITP is the UK’s leading independent institution for people who work in the sector, dating back to 1906 when telecoms was an emerging industry.

Over century on, the ITP continues to support innovation. Under Crissi’s leadership, the ITP has put a real focus on apprenticeships. These schemes are tasked with equipping future telecoms professionals the skills they’ll need to help build and manage the UK’s growing infrastructure. She shares her view on how to tackle the challenges facing the industry today.

What are the main challenges facing the telecoms industry and the UK’s full fibre roll-out?

As demonstrated in the recent open letter to the Government, the industry is faced with a number of challenges and needs the right investment environment to make the full roll-out possible.

According to research by the FTTH Council, the UK was bottom of the fibre penetration rankings for European countries between September 2017 and 2018. There is no doubt that the government’s current targets are ambitious and that there is a real concern among providers that this is simply not realistic.

“There is no doubt that the government’s current targets are ambitious and that there is a real concern among providers that this is simply not realistic.”

We would echo those supporting the open letter in the following areas:

· Fibre tax reform – which would give the industry an immediate boost.

· Wayleaves – this would allow faster access to buildings and land to deliver the services, avoiding delays with landlords.

· Incorporating fibre connectivity into new builds – this needs to be addressed and added as a basic.

· Skills gap – more investment is needed on a national scale, but companies can also be helping to address this too we believe through apprenticeships.

What action can telecoms providers take to reduce the skills gap?

We know that the digital skills gap is widening, and we want to address it. We believe that apprenticeships are the key to tackling this crisis; providing a fully trained skilled workforce from the ground up.

We launched our Apprenticeship Scheme in 2013 to help those organisations realise the benefits of apprenticeships, particularly those who would traditionally not have even considered a scheme. We relieve the admin burden of managing a scheme by recruiting, training and mentoring apprentices on behalf of our partners. Since we launched, we have created more than 100 roles across the industry. We are committed to increasing this and playing our role in filling the gap over the coming years.

What is it about the industry that appeals most to prospective telecoms apprentices?

For many of our apprentices it is the variety that a career in telecoms can offer. There is not one set path, and no single set outcome. Some of our apprentices have started off as help desk coordinators and ended up in engineering roles. There is a huge amount of scope for development and learning, and so many facets to telecoms. As we know, future jobs lie in areas such as AI and machine learning – all of which is possible with a telecoms apprenticeship.

“We believe that apprenticeships are the key to tackling this crisis; providing a fully trained skilled workforce from the ground up.”

Career progression can also be fast in this industry. One of our original apprentices, Josh Fowler, was recruited in 2013 as a Provisioning Apprentice and is now a Service Manager earning four times the salary he was recruited on!

Is there such a thing as a typical career path of a telecoms apprentice? What jobs can they hope to secure in the future?

There is no ‘typical’ career path as many apprenticeships, such as BT’s, offer a rotation every six months. This is a fantastic way for apprentices to learn every facet of the business and get a real understanding of how the organisation works. They can then choose which path to go down based on their experience. This is not limited to larger organisations either, many apprentices working in SMEs report the same thing.

“Career progression can also be fast in this industry.”

Working in a smaller organisation allows them to get hands-on experience and work directly with senior management – so there are advantages to apprenticeships in both. There are also no ‘typical’ telecoms jobs at the end of the apprenticeship either, as our industry becomes more and more unified, there are many different roles that an apprentice could move into; Network Engineer, Cyber Security Technician or Data Analysts – it all depends on the business need and where the apprentice has shown a real interest

Big thank you to Crissi for providing an insight into how apprenticeships add value to the industry. It’s clear to see they’re becoming an increasingly popular route into the sector for both employers and prospective telecoms professionals. You can learn more about the ITP and the work they do here or follow Crissi on LinkdIn.

Want to to know the government perspective on the challenges facing the full fibre roll out? Check out our interview with the UK’s Fibre Programme Director, Justin Leese.