Local people are landing new jobs on a £4.9m project to upgrade Wolverhampton’s public sector digital infrastructure, boosting the city’s economic recovery from Covid-19.

Working in partnership with the city’s Wolves at Work employment team, the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) is equipping around 100 residents with the skills needed to work on the installation of a full fibre network to improve access to broadband across City of Wolverhampton Council premises including schools, libraries and offices in the city.

The WMCA is funding the training through its adult education budget to ensure local people have the skills needed to work on this major project, which is being led by CityFibre, the UK’s third national digital infrastructure platform, under a 20-year contract with the council.

The intensive four-week course gives unemployed people the ‘tickets’ to work on the network, a guaranteed interview for a job on site, and valuable skills and qualifications for future careers in the telecommunications sector, where workers are in high demand.

Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands, said: “We know that upgrading our digital networks from outdated copper to full fibre technologies will provide a vital boost to local economies, and that we need more civil and cabling engineers to make this happen. So with construction of CityFibre’s full fibre networks across the West Midlands already well underway, it is absolutely critical that we ensure the jobs they are creating are filled by local people – particularly given how many have fallen out of work because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“To help make this happen we are funding the training for 100 local people to get the skills they need to carry out the engineering work, all as part of my wider Mayoral jobs plan to create 100,000 jobs in two years. The WMCA has thousands of training and employment opportunities available, and I would urge anyone looking for work to visit our website.”

Learners are being recruited onto the training programme through the Wolves at Work partnership between City of Wolverhampton Council, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), employers, and training and skills providers, as well as via Jobcentre Plus and the National Careers Service.

Cllr Ian Brookfield, leader of City of Wolverhampton Council and WMCA portfolio holder for the economy, said: “This massive infrastructure project will provide Wolverhampton with future-proof, full fibre connectivity to underpin our city’s next phase of technological transformation.

“Better connectivity is vital to enable our residents to benefit from a greener, smarter and more inclusive economy. I’m pleased that local people will be able to gain well-paid jobs working on the project as we recover from the impact of Covid-19.”

Helene Dearn, Group Director West Midlands – DWP, said: “Upskilling local people is vital to enable them to compete for the jobs that are on offer. By working in partnership with the WMCA, City of Wolverhampton Council and employers, we’ve been able to help residents gain new jobs on the construction of the CityFibre network.”

The training has been delivered by provider PQMS, which specialises in telecommunications courses. Candidates have gained hands-on experience of the specialist skills needed to start their career in the sector, together with employability skills.

Ben Carpenter, aged 21, was previously a coach mechanic but was put on furlough due to the coronavirus pandemic. He has now secured a job working on the CityFibre project in Wolverhampton.

He said: “The training was one of the best courses I’ve ever been on and I would definitely recommend it.”

The project has been made possible through the Government’s £5 billion commitment to bring faster, gigabit-speed internet to the whole country to ensure everyone is better connected, create jobs and power the UK’s economic recovery from coronavirus.

It will also be rolled out to other parts of the Black Country over the coming months.

Bashir Ahmed, CityFibre’s city manager for Wolverhampton, said: “Full Fibre connectivity will put the region at the forefront of the digital transformation we are driving across the country. As we adapt to a world with Covid-19, the importance of delivering world-leading digital infrastructure for residents and businesses could not be greater.

“We are committed to offering job opportunities to local residents to enable the build of our digital infrastructure, including those who have lost their jobs as a result of the ongoing crisis and those who are under-represented in the construction industry.”

To find out more about starting a new career in construction, contact the National Careers Service West Midlands on 0800 100 900 or visit https://nationalcareers.service.gov.uk/