In 2019 the government announced plans for the UK to achieve a full fibre broadband roll out by 2025, an improvement of 8 years on the original goal. Openreach, which is UK’s leading Digital Business Company, achieved a new record availability rate of 19.01%, for its full fibre broadband roll-out programme by 2020. Although this may be hard to imagine, it means that every week another 40,000 homes and businesses can access full fibre, the equivalent to another home every 15 seconds.

Then, there are alternate broadband services operators who are building networks to meet the government targets and to take advantages of subsidies being provided. With such an ambitious programme being run, the manpower needed to plan, design, implement and operate have suddenly has sky rocketed. While planners and designers are engineers, on the other side, the implementation and operate teams are traditionally diploma holders and labors, etc. In UK, Eastern Europeans who are generally for implementation and field operations, they now how moved back to EU owing to new regulations which requirement that they need residency before they come back and apply. This has created a gap in availability of skilled field resources, as the experienced resources are asking for a fortune, while mid level resources have lot of other opportunities.

Now the question is how to match the demand and keep up the pace of UK’s digital business?

Why capacity development?

Due to extreme shortage of resources and requirements of resources further expected to accelerate, the poaching of same resources by multiple companies shall lead to higher wages, changing attitude by employees but planning and deployment capability will remain the same. Only a handful of companies are taking fresh graduates or apprentices and training them thematically, practically will lead to more resources in the market. Further, UK has access to EU market, US markets, UAE and Saudi market, and resources would have to be brought in form abroad.

How to do capacity development?

The question is how to do capacity development. There are two options that may work out to manage this capacity gaps.

Option 1: Bring Experienced Resources from countries where Fiber Network Coverage is high

Countries like Spain and Portugal in Europe and UAE in Middle East have been on the journey to build GPON based fiber networks since the last 15 years. UAE has achieved more than 90%+ fiber to the home coverage. Both the period since the network has been deployed as well as the penetration has led to high volume of resources being created including planners, spliers, cable pullers, operatives, civil supervisor, carpenters, masons, etc. Nets being one of the top 3 contractor for both both Etisalat and DU telecom has employed more than 200+ permanent employees and similar number engaged via subcontractors. With the market getting saturated, this creates an ideal opportunity to move resources to UK while replacing them fresh resources from developing countries like Phillipines, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. The resources can expect minimum 50% increase in salary compared to UAE.ductivity.

Option 2: Train local Talent

Nets has a philosophy or a core value to create jobs. In view of this, we have trial and tested diploma holders under a structured 2 weeks training and 6 week practical on-job training. It has worked out very well with almost 100% success rate. This create loyal resources who are flexible and cost low enhancing the overall capacity to the meet the UK broadband targets. After this initial training, the resources can grouped and positioned at different levels.

Both approaches are necessary to create capacity. With capacity will come cost effective rates and resources will work with highest productivity.

To conclude, what is the best next step?

Keeping in view rapid deployments of fibre networks in UK, the approaches suggested above will help in both capacity and competitiveness.

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Jahangir Ahmad