Businesses need support to build their digital skills

11.3 million UK adults and 10 per cent of the UK workforce lack basic digital skills, which is costing the economy £63 billion a year
Jane Wood

THE global Covid-19 pandemic is first and foremost a public health crisis – the gravest of our generation – and it is only right that the government has taken decisive action to protect the elderly and most vulnerable in our society.

At the same time of course, concern around the economic impact of the outbreak is mounting. Many successful businesses – especially sole traders and SMEs - now find themselves fighting for survival. The spread of the coronavirus is presenting an immense challenge to small businesses everywhere.

As a critical enabler and investor in Northern Ireland, that has generated £592 million total GVA impact locally, BT Group is working hard to help keep Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK up and running during this difficult time. BT supports thousands of SMEs in Northern Ireland and around one million across the UK.

We're helping them stay connected and operational during this period by providing them with a range of support and technology solutions.

Working from home for the first time could be very daunting for many, especially if you're used to a busy, bustling workplace. For sole traders, SMEs, as well as large corporates in the public and private sectors, being able to adapt their business model and move their offer online is going to be absolutely essential.

That's why businesses need support to build their digital skills – and that's where BT Skills for Tomorrow comes in. BT is supporting businesses by giving them access to the best technology, flexible options and training to help them navigate through this challenging period.

BT Skills for Tomorrow ( offers free sessions as part of a major new programme, temporarily being moved online, designed to empower 10 million people across the UK by giving them the skills they need to flourish for the digital future.

BT has collaborated with leading digital skills organisations to collate the best courses and information, in one easy to navigate place. Everyone is included - from school children to older people; from young adults looking for employment; to SMEs and larger public and private businesses looking for growth.

In partnership with Google Digital Garage, Small Business Britain, and LinkedIn Learning, we've created numerous useful guides on how to do business online and develop effective digital skills.

We're also supporting small businesses via several webinars, to help with things like online presence, digital marketing, data analytics, social media and collaboration tools.

Northern Ireland faces a digital skills gap, which is having a profound impact on us. The rapid pace of change is leaving people behind – as many as 11.3 million UK adults and 10 per cent of the UK workforce lack basic digital skills, which is costing the UK economy an estimated £63 billion a year.

Every SME needs to be a technology business to succeed, and the key to closing the digital divide is in empowering SMEs with the right tools to radically improve operations and cement business success.

Some of the forthcoming free webinars will cover the best collaborative tools to support remote working, how businesses can connect with customers online and alternative business models using digital approaches.

:: Jane Wood is nations and regions director at BT Group.

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