New social project in Sheffield to create new Full Fiber engineers


A new scheme – the Dryden Project – has launched in one of Sheffield’s most deprived areas, which will see partners work together to help tackle digital poverty by connecting 360 homes on a social housing estate in Southey Green at the top FTTP throughput – using this as a platform to help train new engineers from the local community.

The project is led by the David and Jane Richards Family Foundation, a local charity, and youth and community service provider SY-NC (Sheffield Youth Neighborhoods and Communities), with other supporters including Councilor Jane Dunn, Digital Poverty Alliance, Northern Powerhouse Partnership, UK ISP Pine Media, Sheffield Churches Council for Community Care, Sheffield City Council and the University of Sheffield.

As part of the plan, Pine Media, which has already built its own gigabit-enabled Fiber to the Premises (FTTP) broadband network to serve more than 7,600 apartments in Sheffield, will install this network on the same estate mentioned above. As part of this, they will also create a number of roles for Field Service Technician Trainees.

Interns will work under the supervision of experienced technicians, running cables, repairing blockages and developing fiber optic engineering skills. Interns will work to become skilled technicians in an industry where skills are scarce and the demand for experienced workers is growing.

Ben Charig, Director of Strategy and Planning at Pine Media, said:

“We are looking for people with practical problem-solving skills, resourcefulness and the ability to work in a team, keep their wits about them and maintain a safe and tidy workplace.

Our industry is growing and ISPs generally struggle to recruit and retain the right people. The fiber will exist for decades and will require maintenance. People who become skilled and efficient fiber assemblers can expect to earn around £35,000 a year and potentially much more if they run their own fiber cabling and civil engineering businesses.

These are great opportunities and we are delighted to be part of this pioneering project to fight digital poverty.

David Richards, co-founder of the David and Jane Richards Family Foundation and WANdisc, said:

“The Dryden Project will enable people to lift themselves out of poverty by providing a low-cost and safe way to access the digital world, opening up education and employment opportunities, improving access to public services and providing a portal of useful and reliable information.

We need ambitious young people in the field to help us build and maintain the new network and encourage anyone interested to contact us. This could launch new tech careers and lead to the creation of new businesses in Southey Green.

Anything that helps address the current shortage of qualified fiber engineers is a good thing, although it’s unclear how many people might actually benefit from the new training program, as the deployment itself is relatively weak. Nevertheless, there is no better teacher than that of practical on-the-job experience.

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