BT invests £15m in training 8,000 staff for external IT services role

BT is investing £15m in training 8,000 IT staff to transform itself from a telecommunications services company into a firm offering network and IT services to external customers.

BT is investing £15m in training 8,000 IT staff to transform itself from a telecommunications services company into a firm offering network and IT services to external customers.

The company aims to transfer thousands of IT staff away from non-core internal IT roles to higher-value work, including programme management, solutions design and systems integration, as it steps up plans to offer external IT and network services.

BT has transferred 100 IT staff to external projects so far, but aims to have about half working on external projects within two years. Customers so far include Unilever and the NHS.

The telco has begun a huge IT rationalisation as part of its 21st Century Network project, to create an IP-based telecommunications network that will reduce the number of legacy IT systems deployed in the organisation and free up IT staff for other work.

At the same time, BT plans to step up its outsourcing of lower-value IT and commodity services to offshore outsourcing firms.

"If you look at what we do in the IT department today, a chunk is not on high-value add, things like testing, and work on the core platforms we use to run the work," said Dave Butcher, director of transformation. "We will move people on internal work from these non-core operations, and move them to programme management, solutions design and systems integration, things that have a lot more value to them."

BT plans to put more than 1,000 IT staff through externally recognised qualifications by the year-end, including Cisco skills, programme management, integration and design.

The move will provide BT staff with qualifications widely recognised by potential customers, and will leave the organisation looking more like an IT and network services company.

"The training varies," said Butcher. "In some cases it is really a formalisation of what is already there. In others, we have put together the right training package to enable individuals to do what is needed to get those skills."

The training includes e-learning, classroom training, work experience and job shadowing. BT is also putting staff through customer familiarisation training, which helps prepare them for working on commercial projects.

"Over time, I would like to see the vast majority of our people being in a position that their skills relate to some position in the marketplace," said Butcher. "We will encourage them to go for accreditation. It will be a way of winning work."

BT is also reorganising its operations to bring all IT staff from different parts of the group into a single organisation - a strategy dubbed One IT.

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