Two apprentices are hard at work getting residents and businesses across Northumberland up to speed on the benefits of superfast broadband. The pair are learning vital skills and gaining recognised qualifications as part of the iNorthumberland programme team.

Nathan Fuller joined the iNorthumberland team in May last year – attracted by the idea of ‘learning and earning’ on the job, whilst working towards a Level Four Diploma in Business Administration.

The 21- year-old, from Hadston, has already gained plenty of experience helping to spread the word that high-speed broadband has arrived in communities across the county. He said: “I work on demand stimulation – helping to keep the public informed about where and when fibre is coming and ensuring people know how to sign up for a service. The great thing about the apprenticeship is that you’re learning on the job. I needed to learn but I needed to be working as well. I’m involved in everything from managing social media and attending public awareness events to helping deal with people’s broadband enquiries. It’s a steep learning curve because people expect you to know absolutely everything there is to know about the broadband project!” You are learning everyday with real life situations – which is the key advantage of an apprenticeship.”

Nathan has had considerable success during his time with Northumberland County Council. Last year, he was recognised for his work on demand stimulation and also in helping to increase the digital skills of council members with the Rising Star Award 2015 from the North East technology industry at its Dynamites15 awards ceremony. He will complete his diploma in October and then continue his role with iNorthumberland full-time.

Shannon Johnson lives in Ashington. The 17-year-old joined the broadband project team in January this year and is doing a BTEC level 2 Diploma in Business Admin. She said: “I love learning on the job – with an apprenticeship you get so much more involved with everything and can learn more quickly because you’re directly applying your knowledge. Studying this way means I’m able to get involved in so many different aspects of the job so I’m not just sitting at a desk. I’m able to go out and meet the public and help organise the events that we do to promote fibre broadband.”

Councillor Dave Ledger, deputy leader of Northumberland County Council and member responsible for the iNorthumberland programme, said: “It is great to see Nathan and Shannon playing such a key role in the iNorthumberland project. Through positions like this we can help young people to gain valuable experience and skills, and they are also having a large impact on the scheme. Nathan’s contribution was recognised last year in his achievement of a regional award. I am sure that Shannon will enjoy her role and gain similar valuable skills and experience too.”

Simon Roberson, BT’s North East regional partnership director, said: “It’s great to see the iNorthumberland programme has created this fantastic opportunity for two local young people as they start out on what I’m sure will be very successful careers.”

The iNorthumberland broadband programme, a key part of the council’s growth investment, is being delivered by Northumberland County Council and BT. BT was awarded the iNorthumberland contract in April 2013 following a procurement exercise through the Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) framework. A second phase contract was signed in June which will see more than £4.1 million invested in the programme area in addition to the £18.9 million initially invested by Northumberland County Council, the Government’s Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) fund, BT and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

The majority of premises in Northumberland will be getting access to some of the best broadband speeds in the UK via iNorthumberland and the commercial roll-out of fibre by BT’s local network business, Openreach. Openreach’s network is open to all broadband service providers on an equal wholesale basis and so Northumberland households and businesses can benefit from highly competitive products and pricing from a range of providers.

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