London is a truly global success story. There are many reasons for London’s success – in particular, it has always thrived because of its connectivity, and the skills of its people. BT has contributed to and shared in this success for many years.
The day-to-day impact of BT in the capital is hard to overstate. We employ more than 11,000 people in London – which accounts for more than 1 in every 20 workers in the IT and communications sectors. Taken together with the £3 billion we spent with London-based suppliers, the total Gross Value Added of BT in London (including indirect and induced effects) was more than £6 billion last year.
Our focus on innovation doesn’t stop. BT invests more in research and development than any other UK tech company – and this drives tangible benefits for our customers. EE was the first mobile network to go live with 5G earlier in the year, with coverage continuing to improve throughout the capital. Through our now legally-separated Openreach division, we are passing 20,000 properties every week, bringing gigabit-capable fixed fibre broadband to homes and businesses.
This burgeoning connectivity creates huge opportunities for the UK – we have the highest share of GDP generated by the digital economy of any country in the G20. Yet on the flipside of this opportunity, the UK faces an alarming digital skills gap — millions of people and a significant number of businesses across the UK lack the essential digital skills they need, which risks widening social divides and has an estimated £63bn annual impact on the UK’s competitiveness.
To address this issue BT has launched Skills for Tomorrow — a new digital skills programme to help 10m people, families and businesses across the UK get the skills they need by 2025. Through our Barefoot Computing programme we have already reached a significant number of schools, enabling more primary school children to get a head start on computational thinking. In London, almost 7,000 teachers at 1,200 schools have already been reached through this work. Across the country, 2 million children have been reached by Barefoot already – and we plan to reach 3 million more by 2025.
Our Work Ready programme is proud to have supported hundreds of disadvantaged 16 – 24-year-olds with the training and experience they need to find a job – 150 young Londoners who are not in education employment or training graduated from the programme in the last year, with more than 50% going on to further employment, training or education. By 2025, Work Ready will help a further 5,00018 – 24 year olds.
To meet our ambitious goal of helping 10 million people, the Skills for Tomorrow programme is now expanding further. In partnership with the Good Things Foundation, we will be helping older, more vulnerable, and digitally excluded people in 90BT sponsored community training centres across the UK. And new online training, resources and activities will give parents and children more confidence in using digital tech and help bring digital skills thinking into the home. We have also announced an ambition to provide digital skills training to one million small business owners and employees by 2025 through working with partners including Google Digital Garage, LinkedIn and more.
At BT, we believe that we can play our role to help bring about a step-change in digital skills, and we are one of the founding partners of the public/private future.now coalition which aims to motivate people and businesses to boost their digital skills to thrive in a digital UK. Businesses, charities and education providers of all shapes and sizes can pledge through future.now to play their part in addressing the digital skills challenge. Together, we can shift perceptions of digital skills from boring and niche to fun and vital — promoting better economic productivity and social inclusion. It will have profound benefits for London, and the UK as a whole.