Head of training at the BBC Nigel Paine will deploy an array of modern
online methods to boost the corporation’s ambitions to be the most creative
organisation in the world, writes Simon Kent
Appointed in April this year, Nigel Paine’s enthusiasm for his new post as
the BBC’s head of training is not simply a factor of ‘new kid on the block’.
Certainly the size of his new employer – and the training resources available –
would be enough to put a smile on any trainer’s face, but Paine has a vision
for training to match the vision of the BBC’s own director-general: "Greg
Dyke wants to shake up the BBC and make it the most creative organisation in
the world," says Paine. "I want to prove to him that he hasn’t a hope
in hell of delivering that vision without strong training and development for
Describing himself as a ‘learning technology specialist’ rather than a
‘generic training specialist’, this is the first time Paine has been in charge
of the training function within a large organisation. Having spent the past 20
years working with diverse organisations around the world he admits his new
position will require him to show he can deliver the learning initiatives he’s
been advising others on: "In some ways I am now putting my money where my
mouth is," he says, "I’ve spent time with big organisations saying you
should do this or that and now I’m giving myself my own advice. It’s a chance
to focus those ideas and make a big impact."
The BBC’s current position within the broadcast industry means that impact
could and should be international as well as national. With licence fee funding
guaranteed until 2006, finance is assured at a time when the organisation is
winning ratings and critical acclaim around the world. The training function
already performs well, delivering almost 38,000 trainee days across 25,000 people
from within and outside the organisation in the last year alone.
Training has been delivered across the world from Bosnia to Afghanistan to
parts of Africa – through an arrangement with the World Service Trust – and
this is likely to expand. Last year the learning intranet – learn.gateway –
reached 14,000 staff. With four television and seven radio studios dedicated to
training, the BBC is the only training organisation offering cutting edge
digital and new media technology in a dedicated training environment. All this
and a training department with 340 staff, including 90 specialists in the
Paine’s mission is not only to marshal these resources and activities in a way
which will power the BBC into the future, but to build on them, boosting the
status of training itself and delivering a ‘just-in-time, just-for-me’
resource. Informed by an approach which gives equal importance to learning
content, support and management, Paine wants to build a blended learning system
offering mass customisation (tailored for entire corporation departments) as
well as individual customisation.
He wants to see training courses introduced ahead of demand, predicting
skill requirements rather than responding to needs. He wants better knowledge
management across the corporation, where the expertise of permanent staff and
10,000 regular freelance workers is shared through diverse media.
A tall order, but not impossible. And certainly, there are points where
action can be taken immediately to realise this goal: "We should look to
our customers," says Paine. "We haven’t always done that in the past.
We need to look at how we cluster training programmes, particularly for internal
use to bring them together in clear learning programmes."
He cites management training as a prime example of this. Currently there are
hundreds of courses relevant to management at new, experienced and senior
levels. Lack of structure, however, means these appear simply as a collection
of courses. By listening to feedback on skills required from BBC staff and
linking with external organisations such as Skillset – the TV and film Sector
Skills Council – courses will be restructured in such a way as to offer
discernible career paths. Paine will be able to ensure there is appropriate
training for everyone in a management position.
"We should put our efforts into aligning ourselves more closely with
the organisation," Paine continues, "We’re reaching a point now where
we can just about guarantee that if one course is filled by a certain division
of the company, we can customise that course for that division." While
offering a closer match of skills for departments, this ‘mass customisation’
may also be key to the training function winning additional resources for its
activities: "I’d like to see customers both inside and outside the
organisation buying their own training and making a clear commitment to the
activity," says Paine.
While this suggests a ‘demand-led’ training supply, Paine also notes the
department must be predictive in its provision, anticipating the courses
individuals and departments require. "I never want anyone to say they had
to tell BBC Training about a new technology for which we need to provide training,"
he says. "I want a large number of new programmes to be in development so
we’re ahead of the next wave – we need to be ready to run whenever the trainees
Booking courses will be technology-driven, giving customers the power to
access learning events directly. At the same time, both intranet and internet
platforms will play an important role for training delivery itself. Paine
believes he has the country’s largest dedicated online training department and
is determined that it should produce the most exciting and gripping multimedia
learning content possible.
One of his immediate pledges on taking this job was that he would provide
access to online learning resources outside the BBC rather than keeping the
material behind the BBC’s firewall, accessible only from organisation machines
as is currently the case.
"I can’t stand up in public and say we have to provide access to
training 24-hours a day, seven days a week, if we don’t offer access to our own
resources outside the BBC," says Paine. "And I’m not prepared to put
it out on CD-Rom when there’s a massive infrastructure which can be used to do
Part of the reason why it is so important these online resources are made
accessible is the proliferation of freelance workers across the industry. While
the BBC can still develop employees from low to senior roles along conventional
career routes, a scan through any programme’s production credits shows actors,
writers and other creative workers are working freelance. "I think we have
a moral obligation to share information with freelance workers," says
The use of technology will not stop at the PC, however, as Paine is keen to
pioneer training and knowledge resources delivered across PDAs and even mobile
phones. He speculates on making safety procedure checklists accessible for
workers in the field or even managerial text messaging. "I want to build
the five-minute learning experience," he says. "We’re good at long-
and medium-term training, but not at the short-term."
Alongside this groundbreaking activity, Paine also wants greater importance
attached to training evaluation – checking on the impact of learning on an
individual’s skills and work a month or so after the event rather than just
their immediate reaction. There is limited data in this area at the moment but,
says Paine "I need to focus on what we can contribute to the business
because, very soon, Greg Dyke is going to ask me exactly that question."
With such unique resources it could be argued that the BBC’s training function
is in an ideal situation to become a separate business entity, creating revenue
for the organisation by supplying top quality courses. But realising this is
not straightforward. "On one hand, the BBC should not necessarily be
subsidising Carlton or Granada or anyone else," says Paine. "But also
it should not exploit its monopoly position. We are forced to charge a fair
market rate within the marketplace. At the same time, the BBC’s role in society
means it should put something back to help the survival of the broadcast
industry as a whole."
‘Putting something back’ is a theme which links back to Paine’s approach to
knowledge management at the BBC. He wants to see top level employees from all
functions taking time out to give advice and skills to those moving through the
organisation. "Michael Parkinson did a masterclass for us about
interviewing techniques," he says. "He did that in front of an
audience and we recorded it and turned it into an interactive module which has now
been accessed by thousands of people. He loved doing it but if we offered him a
full-time training course it’s unlikely he would accept."
A similar approach is being taken at senior management level and Paine
reports that the idea of giving a few hours of a manager’s time to provide a
learning resource has been viewed favourably. "I’d love young trainees to
be able to learn from the experts," he says. "It would raise the
profile of training and give it the status it needs – not as a bolt-on, but as
an integral part of the business."
Paine’s philosophy is as outward looking as it is inward. He is well aware
that he is a relative newcomer to both the industry and organisation and wants
to use this to facilitate links with external resources and organisations,
allowing BBC training to energise the industry and be energised in return.
"The broadcasting industry is managing to keep the skills base alive
despite the fact it relies on a large number of freelancers and small
companies," he says. "There’s no longer the sense of ‘we’re not going
to train people because they will be poached’, rather a genuine willingness to
share. I’d like to extend that wherever possible. I’d be happy to do joint
courses with Channel 4 or Carlton in the future because we have nothing to hide
and plenty to share.
"That way we can meet the Government’s skills agenda and the needs of
CV – Nigel Paine
1980s A variety of research and consultancy work with the Open
University and the Open Tech Programme in the field of Open Learning. Ran a
major research project in Scotland looking at analogues of the Open University
for sub-degree education and flexible learning provision through emerging
1984 Won a Thyne scholarship – spent three months in Australia
looking at distance learning programmes and their use of learning technologies.
1986 Established the Open Learning Unit in the Scottish Council
for Educational Technology (SCET).
1988 Appointed assistant director learning systems in SCET.
1990 Chief executive of SCET, worked with organisations around
the world building learning systems.
1993 Member of the Anderson Committee looking at training of FE
lecturers in Scotland.
1994 Appointed board member and then deputy chairman of the
board of Anniesland College in Glasgow
1997 Member of the Secretary of State’s Committee establishing
the UFI in Scotland.
1998 Appointed a visiting professor in New Learning
Technologies at Napier University in Edinburgh.
1999 Chief executive of Technology Colleges Trust, London.
Focused on establishing the Specialist Schools Programme and, in particular,
helping schools maximise their use of technology in education. This included
building the first broadband network for schools in partnership with ICL and
2001 Director of Science Year. Worked with David Puttnam
developing and delivering science and technology resources to young people.
Built dedicated website which gained more than 1 million hits a day.