The National Broadband Network (NBN) is costing a lot of money, which means a lot of people will get employed to help create it. The majority of those jobs will be in construction, but if you're contemplating trying for an NBN-related career, learn to be a fibre splicer.
Picture by Kenny Holston
At yesterday's media briefing on the NBN rollout, NBN Co chief operating officer Ralph Steffens discussed the human element of building the network in some detail, though he shied away from giving specific figures on who would be employed. In part, that's because NBN Co uses a large number of contractors and may outsource other functions in the future.
"We are continuously working with all the supply chain. It's not only the amount of people you need, it's also the skills of people you need," Steffen said.
In Tasmania, which is due to have its entire state NBN infrastructure completed by 2015, NBN Co has been partnering with local vocational training organisations to ensure a supply of relevant skills, and that approach will be repeated in other regions.
Amongst those roles, Steffen singled out fibre splicing as a good long-term career, though he noted that it won't be a role employing thousands of people: "The majority are construction roles and the minority will be fibre splicers."
But that doesn't mean it's not a good potential long-term career role:
You would not expect these people to sit around waiting for work to come their way. Once the fibre [rollout] ends, it doesn't mean there's no need for these skills. You keep doing network augmentation. Roughly one per cent of housing stock is being renewed year on year. Fibre is going to enter into our lives more and more.
A cursory check on job sites suggests casual fibre splicers can earn up to $30 an hour, while career roles can pay up to $100,000 per annum.
As a national project, the NBN will cover many of the same remote 'fly-in fly-out' areas that have mining activity, which could potentially make life expensive. Steffens doesn't see that as a major problem though:
Naturally we are competing for the same resources, but the good news is if we look at the northern port of WA, the amount of work we need to do there is relatively small. Where the densely populated areas are , we have very little mining pressure. There seems to be a reasonable match between lack of population and low activity from an NBN perspective.
People who do specialised work commissioning exchanges might move around, but the majority of workers will be local, Steffens predicted, though there may be occasional exceptions:
For the construction part of it that will be largely local, but there'll always be an opportunity for people to go where the work is.
A large chunk of the NBN Co workforce will also be part of Telstra, since Telstra has the responsibility to maintain the pits and ducts until 18 months after the NBN is completed, when the copper network will be switched off:
The beauty about the deal with Telstra is they need to remediate their own pits and their own ducts. Telstra is giving us usable infrastructure, It's their infrastructure and they have played with it for a long, long time and they will continue to play with it to make it usable for us.