The telecoms industry is recruiting as ageing networks are upgraded © FT Commission

CityFibre, the Goldman Sachs-backed telecoms company, will create 11,000 new jobs over the next three years as it pushes ahead with an expansion of its fibre network to reach 8m homes.

The telecoms infrastructure company has built full-fibre networks in a around 25 smaller UK cities and towns such as Milton Keynes and Peterborough and believes a £4bn expansion to 100 locations will act as a catalyst for investment by larger rivals BT’s Openreach and Virgin Media.

The group has kicked off the three-year recruitment drive at a time when tens of thousands of jobs are under threat because of the pandemic. It will train 10,000 new engineers in skills including fibre splicing, telephone pole climbing and road cutting, who will then be employed by local construction groups, as well as employing 1,000 people directly as part of the plan. 

The telecoms industry has been expanding its workforce as investment in replacing ageing copper lines with fibre cables has picked up. Openreach has hired 6,500 engineers over the past two years.

Boris Johnson, the prime minister, has pledged that all households should be able to connect to a “gigabit speed” broadband line by 2025. Greg Mesch, founder and chief executive of CityFibre, said the company expects to hit its 8m target — around 30 per cent of UK homes — by that date.

CityFibre was bought by Goldman Sachs’ West Street Infrastructure Fund and Antin Infrastructure Partners in 2017. The owners have backed a rapid expansion of the fibre network which will be used by consumer companies, including Vodafone, to offer broadband to consumers and businesses.

The recruitment drive, which kicks off later this month, will attempt to hire people from the cities where the work will be done and will push to hire more female and black, Asian and minority ethnic (Bame) workers which the company said are under-represented in the telecoms workforce. It will need around 150 workers for each town and city where it builds.

Oliver Dowden, the culture secretary, said in a statement: “We’re working closely with firms like CityFibre and I warmly welcome their commitment to building a highly-skilled and diverse telecoms workforce which will boost growth right across the UK.”

The fierce debate around the use of Huawei-made equipment has raised the prospect of a total ban on the use of the Chinese company’s kit in the UK’s mobile and broadband networks, a move that would slow network upgrades. CityFibre uses US supplier Calix for its fibre network but inherited some Huawei equipment when it acquired TalkTalk’s FibreNation unit for £200m in January. It expects to have stripped out that kit within a year.

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