DIGITAL engineers will be able to develop their ‘street smarts’ before being sent out on the road - after the launch of a new £1.7m training centre in Bolton.

Trainers at telecoms network giant Openreach have constructed a row of replica homes, linked up by fibre connections, for their learners.

An estimated 2,500 students are expected to go through the doors of the state-of-the-art Breightmet hub this year alone.

Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner has endorsed and officially launched the 770-square metre complex, which also features mock telecoms cabinets and a miniature exchange, aside from the classrooms.

Mrs Rayner said: “This fantastic training facility is going to play a major part in training and educating a new generation of engineers, of all ages and from all walks of life.

“The value of being able to learn in a live environment which replicates the real-life scenarios trainees will encounter cannot be underestimated.

“These trainees will be able to approach their early working days with confidence and get off to a flying start.”

The Tameside MP said it was important to see organisations like Openreach delivering training innovations - but stressed that it was vital their investments were matched by further backing from central government.

“This supports our industrial strategy, which will give towns like Bolton a lift, which is something the Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, is always talking about.”

Engineers will make a beeline for the centre from across the north, with residential accommodation being offered in Bolton and Bury for those attending from further afield.

Lessons cover everything from laying cables and building joints to working on underground systems or old-fashioned telegraph poles.

The homes and businesses on ‘Open Street’ are designed with all mod cons, so the trainees can see the challenges of fitting and repairing systems in a lifelike setting.

Ducts and poles connect up all the premises to a nearby telecoms exchange, so engineers can tackle genuine problems they may encounter in the field.

Catherine Colloms, Openreach’s corporate affairs managing director, added: “We’re proud of our track record but recognise there is still more to do.

“We’re investing now for the future so that we have the local, skilled and experienced workforce needed to deliver a full fibre future for Greater Manchester and keep communities connected, with better service, broader coverage and faster broadband speeds for all.”

One of the trainees, Josh Earle, has commended the programme.

He said: “Training has been brilliant – the facilities and trainers have been a very positive introduction to the company.

“Each part of the job is broken down and then matched with the relevant live training environment which has really given me the opportunity to get stuck in and put into practice what I’ve learned.”