Wearside engineer hopes to make Wembley dream come true

Robert in his day job as an apprentice engineer. Image by Peter Talbot.
Robert in his day job as an apprentice engineer. Image by Peter Talbot.
0
Have your say

A Wearside engineer is on his way to Wembley as he hopes to spark a major success for his football club.

Robert Briggs, from Washington, helps to connect homes to superfast broadband in his day job as an apprentice engineer with Openreach.

Robert Briggs smashes in a goal for the Mariners in the quarter-final of the FA Vase. Image by Peter Talbot.

Robert Briggs smashes in a goal for the Mariners in the quarter-final of the FA Vase. Image by Peter Talbot.

The 25-year-old combines his job with playing semi-professionally for South Shields FC, who are travelling to Wembley for the final of the FA Vase a week on Sunday.

The midfielder is nearing the completion of his apprenticeship with Openreach, who he joined in 2014.

Combining being an engineer with part-time football clearly works well for Robert, who admits every day is different.

He said: “Before I joined Openreach I did a degree in sport and was playing semi-professional football.

Robert, centre, with Openreach colleagues Ross Walton, senior operations manager, left, and Michael Sowiak, operations manager. Image by Peter Talbot.

Robert, centre, with Openreach colleagues Ross Walton, senior operations manager, left, and Michael Sowiak, operations manager. Image by Peter Talbot.

"Unfortunately an injury meant I had to consider a less risky, long-term career and I decided to head in a different direction.

“An apprenticeship was the perfect solution as I could earn a decent wage, get more qualifications without any debt and, once I was back to full fitness, I signed for South Shields and haven’t looked back.

“One day I’m installing new lines, fixing faults and connecting up superfast broadband and the next I’m playing football.

"Every day is different and I’d definitely recommend an apprenticeship to anyone.

“I feel really lucky to be able to work in a great job, building a long term career while still pursuing my passion for football.”

Robert and his South Shields team-mates will take on Cleethorpes Town in the FA Vase final, but it won't be the midfielder's first taste of the national stadium.

He was part of the West Auckland Town team which reached the final of the competition in 2014, when they lost out 1-0 to Sholing.

This season, he has been part of the record-breaking Mariners team which has already won three trophies, and is now aiming for an incredible quadruple.

He added: "To win at Wembley would be a dream come true.”

Michael Sowiak, Openreach operations manager, said: “Rob is a great ambassador for apprenticeships and a huge asset to our team.

"We’re all really proud of his ‘other career’ and will be tuning in to watch the game and to hopefully see South Shields win.”

Openreach is part of BT Group, and ironically, Robert will be appearing on BT Sport, with the final to be broadcast live on the channel.

South Shields joint manager Graham Fenton said: “It's great for Rob and the rest of the lads who get to play on the biggest stage of all and we are all looking forward to our big day.

"It's going to be a day to remember for the club and the fans but having the game televised will mean every single fan can be a part of it.

"We'll be giving it our all to bring the trophy back to South Tyneside."

Openreach has recently announced it is recruiting a further 80 trainee engineers across the North East as part of a UK-wide initiative to hire 1,500 trainee engineers over the next eight months.

The local network business will be seeking recruits from across the region to fill the new, full-time and permanent roles to extend its fibre broadband network, improve customer service and keep the North East connected.

Across the UK, Openreach has hired 5,000 engineers and more than 900 apprentices and graduates over the last four years.