"I was an Apprentice" Q&A with Andy Keast Operations Director at Openreach

Sam Harrison
Marketing Executive | Business West
9th February 2024

As part of National Apprenticeship Week, we wanted to highlight Openreach, a Bristol Initiative Member with a long history of working with apprenticeships and supporting apprentices through their careers. When talking to our friends over there, it became clear that we should speak to Andy Keast, the Operations Director for Openreach’s Chief Engineer’s team in the South of England.

He manages a team of 800 highly-skilled engineers and hundreds of contractors. He’s responsible for the Company’s Full Fibre deployment in rural areas, upgrading more than 160,000 homes and businesses last year. He also manages complex repairs to the company’s copper network along with high-level escalations on his patch. Andy has completed two apprenticeships with Openreach; an engineering apprenticeship in 2005 and a Senior Leadership apprenticeship this year. 

Why did you choose an apprenticeship?

I had completed three years at South Devon College studying various elements of Electrical and electronic engineering. This is a field my family had experience with, my dad was a technician and my brother completed his BSc in Electronic Engineering. My goal was to follow in their footsteps. However, after three years at college I both lost motivation to stay in the classroom and through changes in personal circumstances needed to earn money to support myself. It was by chance my girlfriend (who is now my wife) encouraged me to review jobs at the local job centre when I found the ad for a BT apprenticeship in engineering. This opportunity provided me the opportunity to continue my development, but earn a decent wage at the same time, with a company that I know had a track record with its apprenticeships;

What was your experience?

I enjoyed my apprenticeship with BT; I was given time and support to complete my studies, while learning the skills I needed for my day-to-day role. I was encouraged to spend time across the business learning about how all the different parts of the business work together. The academic side came easy to me through my previous studies, but I was still able to increase my skills, completing a BTEC in electronic engineering, an NVQ Level 3 in ICT and a Communications Level 3 qualification. I travelled to Stoke for one week a month to complete the academic element of the apprenticeship;

What skills did the apprenticeship give you for your working life?

Aside from the qualifications mentioned above, I gained confidence through my buddy in my day-to-day role, which has been essential throughout my career in the business. I was able to learn and practice key skills like presentation delivery and communication;

What’s your advice for future apprentices?

My advice would be to engage with the apprenticeship, both the academic and practical in equal measure. It is far too easy to be drawn to focus purely on the day job with targets which need delivering. Allow and demand the time to complete the whole apprenticeship so that you do learn all that is offered to make your career as successful as it can be.

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