More than 19,000 people applied for the 1,000 new job openings at Telstra, with the telco giant set to temporarily bring even more people onboard throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

In mid-March, Telstra announced that it would be hiring 1,000 temporary contractors for its call centres to help the company manage volumes after its call centres in the Philippines were forced to shut down.

Australia’s biggest telco also revealed it would be putting its planned job reductions on hold for the next six months, and introduce new measures to help businesses and individuals throughout the ongoing coronavirus crisis.

There has been a huge amount of interest in these new roles, with more than 19,000 people applying for them, The Australian reported.

This even exceeded Telstra’s own expectations, the company’s executive for Transformation, Communication and People, Alex Badenoch, said.

“We knew there would be demand for the 1,000 contact centre roles we advertised, but we didn’t anticipate having more than 19,000 people apply,” Badenoch told The Australian.

“This shows there’s plenty of talent in the market and we look forward to welcoming some of our new team members from this week to help us better serve our customers during this unprecedented time.”

About 500 of the successful applicants will begin work this week.

Telstra executive in charge of call centres Claire Johnston said the company will likely be hiring many more people over the coming weeks and months.

“It’s going to grow to multiple thousands,” Johnston told The Australian. “And we’ve got thousands coming on in the next four weeks. All of our new workforce coming on board will be enabled to work from home as well.”

Training for the new call centre workers will also be conducted remotely to reduce the risk of spreading the COVID-19 virus.

Telstra CEO Andy Penn addressed shareholders and the media on the company’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic in late March.

He confirmed the company had completed 6,900 of the planned 8,000 job cuts first announced in mid-2018, but the rest of the job reductions would be put on hold for the next six months.

He said the company is working with Australian businesses to help them get through the unfolding crisis.

“These are very challenging and unprecedented times,” Penn said on the call.

“COVID-19 is having a profound impact on businesses across the country. We are supporting our customers as they shift to working and studying from home, and clearly telecommunications plays a critical role in all aspects of peoples’ lives and the economy.

“Never has this been more demonstrated than in the current environment. Big businesses can show leadership and make a contribution to the national response.”

Telstra will be spending $500 million on various initiatives this year to boost its network capacity, accelerate the rollout of 5G technology and pay the new workers it is bringing in.
“We are looking at every aspect of our business to see what we can do for our employees, customers, suppliers and the economy more broadly, while we maintain a focus on long-term value creation,” Penn said.

It was also announced this week that Telstra will be providing 20,000 students and teachers from around the country with free internet access to assist with classes in Australia being taught online.

The company will be providing 4,000 SIM cards to school students in Victoria so they can access the 4G network as part of a deal with the state government, which will be providing a further 1,000 SIM-enabled dongle devices.