Jonathan Welch

Jon Welch – Working at the front lines of change

Chloe Telco

A career switch from baking to helping to build New Zealand’s internet fibre network has been a positive step for Christchurch-based Fibre Technician Jonathan Welch.   

When it comes to revolutions, there is probably none larger than the technology one we are living through. In the last three decades the internet has transformed how people around the world live, work and play, and its innovations just keep on coming.

For the last five years, Christchurch-based Jonathan (Jon) Welch has been literally at the front lines of technological change. As a Fibre Technician with Downer Group he is involved in the nationwide roll-out of the fibre-optic broadband network; if you’re enjoying the super-fast connectivity and large data bandwidths that fibre provides, there’s a chance that Jon may have helped bring it to your area.

“Installing and splicing cable is the heart of what we do as fibre technicians, but as the roll-out extends right throughout New Zealand it offers a big variety of work in diverse settings and environments,” Jon says. “Our work ranges from building new systems and networks to responding to problems so there’s always something different, along with the opportunity to continually expand and improve your skills.”

Jon’s work has also taken him to a lot of places in New Zealand, including the Kaikoura area after the major earthquake in November 2016.

“There was a lot of repair work to be done as you can imagine, and we were sometimes working in remote places where the only access was by helicopter,” he says. “It was memorable times.”

During his five years with Downer Group, Jon has completed two qualifications via Connexis: a Level 2 New Zealand Certificate in Electricity Supply (Introductory) with a strand in Telecommunications (February 2017), and a Level 3 New Zealand Certificate in Telecommunications with a strand in Customer Access Networks (April 2018). In 2018 he received the Telecommunications Trainee of the Year Award at the Connexis Annual Connection Excellence Awards in Christchurch.  

Jon sees his award as another positive sign that his change of career was a good one. Before joining Downer he worked in hospitality for sixteen years and was a qualified baker; a friend who knew he was looking to change directions told him about an industry he thought would appeal to his technical side.

“He has definitely been proved right because that is the area of telecommunications I like the most,” Jon says. “Even though I’m working with fibre on a daily basis I am continually reminded of how clever a technology it is. My qualifications have also helped me to see that.”

Jon says the ability to “earn while he learned” – combining Certificate studies with working at Downer Group – was also a very good experience.

“I have a young family so studying full-time was not practicable, but the combination of part-time study with Connexis and work with Downer gave me financial stability as well as a balanced lifestyle.”

“Downer has a well-structured work environment with a system behind everything and the scope to do different types of work, and it’s rewarding to be part of a team that works together to achieve a goal. There are some big hours involved sometimes but you are paid for them, and with the use of a company car and other benefits I feel well looked after.”

When his family is bit older Jon plans to undertake more studies, but for now he is pleased at how well his new career has turned out.

“I never thought I’d be doing this ten years ago but it has been a great change for both me and my family. I think I have the best of both worlds.”