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Wembley appointment beckons for South Shields broadband engineer

Press release   •   May 12, 2017 12:00 BST

Photo credit: Peter Talbot


Openreach apprentice engineer, Rob Briggs, is temporarily hanging up his hi-viz and heading to Wembley to play in the final of the FA Vase.

Mid-fielder Rob, who plays for South Shields Football Club, will be hitting the hallowed turf as the team take on Cleethorpes Town on May 21.

Rob, who is 25 and lives in Washington, joined Openreach as an apprentice in 2014 and is just about to become a fully-fledged engineer as he nears completion of his apprenticeship. But when he’s not helping to connect people homes up to superfast broadband he spends every spare minute playing the beautiful game.

Rob said: “Before I joined Openreach I did a degree in sport and was playing semi-professional football. Unfortunately an injury meant I had to consider a less risky, long-term career and I decided to head in a different direction.

“An apprenticeship was the perfect solution as I could earn a decent wage, get more qualifications without any debt and, once I was back to full fitness, I signed for South Shields and haven’t looked back.

“One day I’m installing new lines, fixing faults and connecting up superfast broadband and the next I’m playing football. Every day is different and I’d definitely recommend an apprenticeship to anyone.

“I feel really lucky to be able to work in a great job, building a long term career while still pursuing my passion for football.”

It’s not the first time Robert has made it to a final at Wembley. Shortly before joining Openreach his then team, West Auckland, also made it to the final of the FA Vase.

Unfortunately, the team was defeated 1-0 so Robert is hoping that history will not be repeated on May 21st. He said: “It would be amazing to win and we’re certainly heading there with the intention to bring back the trophy for the fans. To win at Wembley would be a dream come true.”

Michael Sowiak, Openreach operations manager, said: “Rob is a great ambassador for apprenticeships and a huge asset to our team. We’re all really proud of his ‘other career’ and will be tuning in to watch the game and to hopefully see South Shields win.”

The match will be televised live on BT Sport on May 21st with a 12:15pm kick off. Around 10,000 South Shields fans are expected to travel to Wembley for the game.

Graham Fenton, South Shields FC joint manager, said: “It's great for Rob and the rest of the lads who get to play on the biggest stage of all and we are all looking forward to our big day. It's going to be a day to remember for the club and the fans but having the game televised will mean every single fan can be a part of it. We'll be giving it our all to bring the trophy back to South Tyneside."

Openreach has recently announced they are recruiting a further 80 trainee engineers across the North East as part of a UK-wide initiative to hire 1,500 trainee engineers over the next eight months.

The local network business, which is part of BT Group, will be seeking recruits from across the region to fill the new, full-time and permanent roles to extend its fibre broadband network, improve customer service and keep the North East connected.

Across the UK, Openreach has hired 5,000 engineers and more than 900 apprentices and graduates over the last four years.

Find out more about our Trainee Engineer Scheme.

About Openreach

Openreach is the UK’s leading digital infrastructure provider.

Its 32,000 employees are responsible for building and maintaining millions of miles of fibre and copper cables that connect every home and business in the UK to local telephone exchanges. Openreach operates and maintains this network to deliver a range of wholesale services for more than 560 retail providers, who in-turn provide telephony, broadband, TV and data services to more than 30 million consumer and business customers throughout the country.

Openreach is a highly regulated business, with more than 90 per cent of its revenues generated from services that are regulated by Ofcom. Any company can access its products under exactly the same prices, terms and conditions.

Over the last decade, Openreach has invested more than £10bn into its network and is currently building the UK’s largest fibre broadband footprint. This technology is available to more than 26 million homes and businesses, with tens of thousands more gaining access each week.

Openreach is a wholly owned and independently governed division of the BT Group. For the year ended 31 March 2016, it reported revenues of £5.1bn.

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