Fast Track: A-Z of Employers - British Telecom

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Age: Nearly 100.

History: From the turn of the century, telephone services were looked after by the post office; first the General Post Office, then Post Office Telephones. In 1981, British Telecommunications plc was born and went on to be privatised in December 1984, with shares priced at pounds 1.30 each.

Address: Headquarters are in London EC1, but there are 6,000 BT centres nationwide, with several in each major city.

Ambience: Fast-changing and energetic, with a "quite obsessive customer focus", according to BT's press office. It has a history of doing good; its community partnership programme gives grants to worthy projects and it even funded Frank Dobson's NHS 50th anniversary website.

Vital statistics: The company made a before-tax profit of pounds 2.59bn on a turnover of pounds 11.69bn in the nine months leading up to 31 December last year; a five per cent growth was generated by telephone exchange line rentals, mobile communications, and advanced and "concert" services. BT also received $465m from WorldCom after a merger between BT and MCI was terminated in November. Meanwhile, it paid out pounds 510m as windfall tax, and recently announced a pounds 300m modernisation programme. As part of the Universal ADSL Working Group,

it is setting standards for new DSL Lite technology (30 times faster than most existing modems).

Lifestyle: Graduates are likely to be based in London or Suffolk (the research and development department is in East Anglia). There are also software centres in Glasgow, Belfast and Cardiff. Graduates combine office- based work with fieldwork, and possibilities for international travel are growing, particularly in the area of sales engineering.

Easy to get into? Women seeking careers in engineering, mature students and ethnic minorities are welcomed with open arms. Others may find it harder; of 15,000 applications, only 600 are taken on. Graduates with technical, engineering and commercial degrees are favoured, and languages are a plus. There are also 200 six-to-12-month industrial placements, and 500 summer placements of up to three months, mostly in engineering and technology.

Glittering alumni: Non-executive director Lord Tebbit; Mike Grabiner, now chief executive of Energis; and George Jefferson, the first chairman of the company: all are cited by a BT spokesman. But don't forget Maureen Lipman, star of the much-loved "phone home" adverts, and the original BT promoter, Spielberg's ET.

Pay: Graduates start on pounds 17,000, plus London weighting and relocation costs. They are also offered an interest-free loan. Pay is reviewed half- yearly on the one- to two-year training programme,

rising steeply in the early years. Students on placements earn about pounds 230 a week.

Training: Professional qualifications can be incorporated into training: graduates can work for membership of the Institute of Electrical Engineering, the Institute of Personnel and Development, the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants and the British Computer Society. BT also offers the chance to work for National Vocational Qualifications and for an in-house degree in conjunction with University College of London.

Canteen: EC1 boasts a "contemporary cafe" in an atrium.

Who's the boss? The group chief executive for the past two years has been Sir Peter Bonfield. Sir Iain Vallance, who has headed BT for 10 years, has announced his role as chairman will now be part-time.

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