BBC Scotland implements digital training programme

Implementing a training programme for more than 1,200 employees is challenging enough. Add to that a simultaneous move to a new HQ, and you’re really up against it. By Sue Weekes.

The logistical challenges faced by BBC Scotland when it changed over to new systems and moved to a £188m broadcast centre at Pacific Quay, Glasgow, earlier this year were considerable.

Like the move, the necessary training had to be staggered to ensure the smooth running of the organisation, which included having to navigate around important news events such as the Scottish Election. The speed of the change also left little room to play: to ensure the BBC had the most up-to-date tools, the technology was implemented as late as possible and the training adapted to suit requirements.

The implementation of digital technology means BBC Scotland has the world’s first integrated content production systems for radio, TV and internet service. Rather than simply map old ways of working on to the equipment, the corporation wanted it to revolutionise working practices.

“Although it was about the roll-out of new technology, the training also had to underpin a number of cultural ambitions,” says Lorna MacDonald, BBC Scotland training manager. “For instance, programme makers can now easily share material for the first time across different platforms so we wanted to ensure the training encouraged a more collaborative way of working.”

BBC Scotland worked in partnership with BBC Training and Development to deliver the training. “It was about business transformation and working smarter,” says Angela Roberts, manager, production training, training and development, BBC People.

She adds that the Pacific Quay project was also important on a pan-BBC scale. “We want to take the legacy of what we’ve learned here and go forward with it to Salford Quays.” Some BBC London-based departments will move to Salford Quays, Manchester, in 2011.

In-house training

The Pacific Quay training programme had to cater for four workstreams: TV and interactive radio news and digital library. Each had its own technical training demands, and MacDonald says she built a training team around the ambitions of each stream.

Early on, the BBC took the decision to deliver the training using its own in-house people. This meant seconding about 30 operational staff, such as programme makers, and putting them through a ‘train the IT trainer’ course, delivered by Northampton-based Training Circle.

Involving operational staff proved to be key to the success of the training project, adds MacDonald. “It lent enormous credibility to the training because it meant programme makers were talking to programme makers,” she says.

Programme makers enjoyed the challenge of getting involved in training, and MacDonald believes there will continue to be a fluidity between operational and learning and development employees in the future. Crucially, when the operational staff return to their day jobs, it also helps to embed a learning culture into the workforce.

State-of-the-art facilities

Most of the courses were delivered face-to-face and on-site, with the training team taking advantage of the building’s state-of-the-art facilities. Classes comprised six students with two trainers – one from training and development and another from production.

The technology used at Pacific Quay is also being used by those working in the regions. So, to train staff in areas such as Aberdeen, Inverness and Shetland, the BBC used a mobile training bus, kitted out with a stand-alone server. After training was completed at these locations, the team ensured there was one, if not two, ‘super-users’ who could support staff in the future.

There was also a desktop learning element to the training programme, with an online module developed to show staff how to use the powerful new search tool behind the digital library, which gives staff access to BBC Scotland’s audio and video archive content. A general learning website has also been set up, featuring course material and help guides.

The initial training programme involving 1,200 people ends in December, and feedback from staff so far has been positive. The only aspect that MacDonald says she would do differently would be to engage a project manager earlier in the process to support the training teams and help with the logistics.

Looking ahead, Roberts says they will be using the “twinned training” model, with each course led by a member of production staff and a training and development trainer, for the Salford Quays project.

She says there will be increasing crossover and exchange of knowledge and skills with members of the production community working in partnership on training design and delivery. Likewise, the training and development teams will work on secondment to content production areas, or on an ad hoc basis as coaches and mentors, often on location.

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