BT has announced its intention to grow its in-house digital talent to 6,300 people as part of plans to accelerate its own digital transformation. It will bring in 1,000 UK candidates and 1,800 new staff in India, as well as up to 400 “diverse entry talent” hires by April 2024.
The telecommunications giant needs digital skills as the services it provides increasingly rely on cloud-based software. But it faces a challenge to convince the brightest and best to join it.
The BT digital jobs on offer span product management, software engineering, cloud, design, data, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, and agile delivery. In the UK, they will work around BT’s hub sites in Birmingham, Manchester, Bristol, Belfast, Ipswich and London, with the majority based outside of London. In India, BT will recruit workers around the hubs in Bengaluru and Gurugram.
BT says that its FY23 financial outlook remains unchanged due to the incremental costs with its hiring plans being offset by a reduction in its reliance on “subcontracted labour”. The most recent financial year saw it report revenue of £20.8bn, down 2.5% year-on-year.
As well as hiring externally, BT says it is continuing with its “ambitious programme” of upskilling and reskilling its workforce, which includes the development of an expansive learning resource – the BT Digital Campus. Its chief digital and innovation officer, Harmeen Mehta, says that the company recognises the need to bring in as well as upskill the top digital talent, which in turn will boost the tech communities in the UK and India.
The telecommunications giant is also focusing on “entry talent” which includes apprentices, graduates, women returning to work and others starting their careers in digital. The company is working with organisations like Code First Girls and 10,000 Black Interns.
“Diversity is a key focus in our recruitment efforts as we need a broad set of temperaments, mindsets and abilities to drive through the cultural transformation that comes hand-in-hand with this talent drive,” Mehta said.
BT Digital jobs: battle with the tech giants
BT Digital has already started its work to bring a more agile approach into the business with a £30m deal with Distributed, which it says will bring agile “elastic teams” to work collaboratively with BT’s digital team on specific projects. The company says it is another route for them to access highly skilled tech talent.
Rob Pritchard, senior analyst, for technology, enterprise technology and services networking at GlobalData, told Tech Monitor that BT’s digital push reflects a trend from across the telecoms industry as companies compete with tech giants for the best talent.
“If I were a software graduate, would I go to a telco or Google?” he asks. “It’s going to be a challenge for [BT to convince them] but it’s a sensible thing for them to do.”
BT’s in-housing of talent and plans to upskill its workforce are also good moves, says Pritchard, as there is a shortage of digital talent worldwide. In the UK, there were more than 64,000 vacancies for UK tech jobs in the third quarter of 2021, according to the latest BCS State of the Nation report.
Telcos are going through their own digital transformation
Across the telecoms industry, companies like BT that used to run networks are looking to a future where services and network infrastructure exist virtually in the cloud. BT has already started its digital transformation plans with the signing of a five-year deal with Amazon Web Services to modernise its internal infrastructure.
John Strand, CEO at Strand Consult, told Tech Monitor that the next big step in this transformation is beginning, where companies like BT need to attract staff with digital skills. The analyst believes the company is making an investment for this new era.
“If you asked BT ‘what exactly are these candidates going to do?’ they wouldn’t be able to answer,” says Strand. “It’s just a part of the recruitment process to attract the right people for the future.” He adds that this announcement from BT is also a signal to those who already work for the company that they need to upskill and be more digital for the future.
This BT Digital jobs news comes just as BT and Openreach workers who are members of the Communications Workers Union (CWU) voted to take strike action relating to a dispute opposing company management’s imposition of an “incredibly low flat-rate pay rise”. Earlier today the union said it was issuing a strike notice, confirming the action. BT told Tech Monitor that its hiring plan is unrelated to any potential industrial action.
“The incremental costs associated with these hiring plans are offset by a reduction in our reliance on subcontracted labour. This is about helping to futureproof BT and accelerate our growth,” a spokesperson for the company said.
Meanwhile, BT is the subject of an extended probe by the UK government over the increased shareholding in the company owned by French businessman Patrick Drahi, who now owns 18% of BT after Altice UK, a company of which he is the sole owner, took an extra 6% stake in the company earlier this year. The government is investigating whether this represents a security risk under the terms of the National Security and Investment Act. This assessment will now continue for an additional 45 days.