The past few months have been both busy and transformative for the National Broadband Network rollout, with the announcement that nbn plans to connect 9.1 million premises by 2018 and complete the network by 2020. To support this accelerated rollout plan, the company must embark on a recruitment and training drive to double the current workforce. Here, we take a look at some of the recent developments pertaining to the rollout, and explore the training requirements for those working on the NBN.
Shaking up nbn deployment
A number of changes have recently occurred that either directly relate to, or have implications for, the NBN rollout.
Australia’s new Minister for Communications, responsible for overseeing the project, is Senator Mitch Fifield, who was appointed to the role by former communications minister and new Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
Additionally, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has granted final approval for the $800million deal that will see ownership of Optus’ hybrid fibre-coaxial (HFC) network transferred to nbn for use in the HFC component of the rollout.
Service Stream has joined the ranks of Transfield, Downer, Visionstream, Fulton Hogan and WBHO in signing a five-year contract with nbn under the new Multi-Technology Master Agreement (MIMA) contracting arrangements. Service Stream’s contract will see the company begin rolling out fibre-to-the-premises (FttP), fibre-to-the-node (FttN) and fibre-to-the-building (FttB) connections, and is estimated to be worth $8-$10million in the first year, with the value in subsequent years to be dependent on performance. The company will begin work under the new contract in December by rolling out connections in Victoria.
“Service Stream is proud to expand our role in supporting nbn as they undertake one of the nation’s most significant infrastructure projects to provide better broadband to all homes and businesses,” said Leigh Mackender, Service Stream’s Managing Director. “This MIMA provides an opportunity for our business to grow our program of works with nbn, and to increase work volumes across subsequent years.”
nbn has reached another significant milestone in the launch of its FttN connection product. The first premises connected to the network via FttN technology were located in Belmont, NSW. nbn aims to have 500,000 FttN premises ready for service by mid-2016 and 3.7 million by mid-2018. Due to the reduced amount of new construction required for this type of connection compared to FttP connections, the new product launch will play a vital role in accelerating the time frame of the project.
“The launch of FttN technology will help us get fast broadband to Australians more quickly and with less inconvenience to end users,” said John Simon, Chief Customer Officer at nbn.
This product launch is especially important in light of the rollout’s new construction targets. In late August, nbn released its comprehensive corporate plan, detailing its three-year targets, and announced that it planned to accelerate the network rollout to reach 9.1 million premises by 2018 and to be complete by 2020. In order to achieve this, the company intends to invest nearly $40million on recruitment and training to double the current workforce.
Investing in training
nbn and its training partners have begun a recruitment and training drive which will see the current workforce expand from approximately 4,500 to 9,000. The company’s $40million investment will go primarily towards awareness campaigns and providing funds for training.
“To bring high speed broadband to Australians faster, our delivery partners will need a bigger pool of trained, skilled workers,” said nbn CEO Bill Morrow. “Both the rapid rollout plan and the multi-technology mix means we need more people in our united partnership to connect eight million happy homes by 2020,” added Morrow.
Timothy Lee, of training partner ASG Integracom, said “We train over 6,000 students nationally each year across the telecommunications industry including extensive numbers in NBN specific training, such as the NBN Safety and Awareness course.”
nbn is currently in the process of reviewing its training regulations to ensure that the new workforce can be quickly and effectively deployed without compromising on quality and safety. The company is also actively meeting with its delivery partners and their subcontractors to discuss their training requirements for new staff and to formulate training incentives to attract workers to the industry or upskill those already working in related roles. nbn is signing agreements with a number of TAFEs and Registered Training Organisations across Australia, to provide appropriate training in every major rollout region in the country.
nbn states that construction partners will explore flexible career options to make the roles more attractive to late-stage career workers trying to balance work and family commitments. nbn also aims to attract school leavers and workers rolling off other construction jobs, by building a range of training and re-skilling programs with tailored career paths. Long-term opportunities will also be created as the network moves into ongoing operations and maintenance.
A national NBN skills register will also be established to help record worker accreditations across the network and improve the ease of administration.
Becoming NBN ready
nbn’s safety and environmental management systems have been certified to Australian and International Standards AS4801 and ISO 14001.
The current minimum requirements for those working on the network include having completed the mandatory nbn™ Safety & Awareness course (provided by an nbn-accredited training organisation) and an industry recognised Perform CPR training course (Unit of Competency). These accreditations need to be maintained throughout the entire term of a worker’s employment on the network. In many cases, workers employed by nbn’s delivery partners are eligible to receive funding from nbn to undertake the necessary courses.
Depending on a worker’s role, other nbn accredited qualifications may be necessary. These include:
nbnAcc12029A Elevated work platform rescue: Covers performance of rescue procedures from an Elevating Work Platform (EWP). Encompasses responsibility for health, safety and risk management processes at all levels and adherence to safety practices.
nbnAcc12030A Power Awareness – Work safely near power infrastructure: Describes performance outcomes to conduct telecommunications operations near substantial safety hazards.
nbnAcc12030A Power Awareness – Working safely near live electrical apparatus as non electrical worker: Covers compliance with working safely up to the defined ‘safe approach distance’ near energised electrical apparatus for non-electrical workers.
nbnAcc13031A Remove non-friable asbestos: Specifies the outcomes required in the removal of non-friable asbestos containing material, including knowledge of decontamination and disposal procedures.
nbnAcc13032A Supervise asbestos removal: Specifies the outcomes required in supervising the removal of friable or non-friable asbestos containing material. Maintaining safety procedures and ensuring compliance with the asbestos removal control plan (ARCP) are central to this role.
The different rollout partners often also have their own minimum training requirements for employees.
The nbn-accredited Safety and Awareness course is currently available through the following training providers:
- Ashley Institute of Training
- ASG Integracom Training
- Chisholm Institute
- Conquest Comms
- Gipps TAFE
- Holmesglen Institute of TAFE
- JB Hunter Technology
- Ramsden Telecommunications Training
- Skills Institute
- TAFE NSW – NCI
- TAFE NSW – SWSI.
While nbn’s review of training regulation is still ongoing and the exact final requirements, training options and funding arrangements remain to be seen, delivery partners and subcontractors looking to increase their workforces for the accelerated NBN delivery time frame are likely to want well-trained staff in a variety of different roles, in order to meet the performance incentives inherent in the new construction contracts.
Doubling the workforce will likely require both newly trained or upskilled staff who may not have previously worked in the network construction area, as well as those highly experienced in the industry to oversee them. Until the new training arrangements are finalised, the current requirements will continue to apply. Those seeking to take advantage of the emerging roles as the rollout ramps up should contact nbn, their direct employer (if currently working for an nbn delivery partner) or an nbn-accredited training organisation.