New collaboration between BT and Google to bring free digital skills learning content and business mentoring sessions to the UK’s small firms
BT and Google today announced an extension to their partnership to equip the UK’s small businesses with new digital skills and build upon their existing mentoring programmes, to help small business owners bounce back stronger from the impact of Covid-19.
Both companies are jointly committed to helping small businesses across the UK get better positioned for growth by addressing the digital skills shortage and sharing their expertise through business mentoring programmes. Since the launch of BT Skills for Tomorrow in 2019, BT has delivered free digital skills training to almost 300,000 UK small business owners and their employees – supported by webinars from Google Digital Garage – charting the company on the right course to hit its target of upskilling a total of one million by 2025.
In 2020, Google committed to helping one million small British businesses remain open by helping them be found online. On top of this, in partnership with Digital Boost, Google is offering 10,000 hours of free mentoring over the course of 12 months to UK small businesses and charities and distributing £25 million worth of advertising credits and grants to British small businesses, government agencies and NGOs.
By building on their existing relationship, both firms can accelerate the roll-out of their UK digital skills programmes at a critical time when small businesses should be harnessing digital technologies to set them up for a more profitable future as the country continues to emerge from the lockdown restrictions.
BT has teamed up with Google to deliver a revamped series of co-branded online training sessions for small firms who are looking to build their digital skills. Launching today, more than 50 free webinars on a range of digital skills topics such as building a social media strategy; creating new videos on YouTube; and getting your business visible on Google, have been made available on www.bt.com/withGoogle.
Both BT and Google have mentoring schemes well underway to help small firms succeed online, with both companies having partnered with Digital Boost – a free non-profit platform which unites digital experts with leaders of small businesses. In addition to Google’s commitment to deliver 10,000 hours of free mentoring over 12 months to small firms and charities, BT has pledged to deliver free 1-to-1 coaching sessions to at least 1,000 small businesses, with hundreds of mentors recruited from across the company to deliver virtual digital skills training sessions. With both companies having a shared interest in helping small firms grow through business mentoring schemes, BT and Google will join forces to bolster each other’s mentoring initiatives. For example, Google will be upskilling BT’s army of mentors to help them improve the effectiveness of their coaching sessions by following best practice guidelines on business mentoring. BT and Google have launched a co-marketing campaign to promote the benefits of this programme for small businesses, encouraging small firms to get trained, get mentored, and access a range of free services available to help them grow.
Ronan Harris, Google’s UK MD, said: ”Technology must help everyone, no matter their location, race, age or education level. We’re excited to announce this extension to our partnership with BT in which we hope to equip even more small businesses across the UK with the right digital skills to grow their business digitally. Local businesses are the lifeblood of our communities and it’s vital we all get behind them.”
Pete Oliver, BT’s Managing Director for SME, said: “BT and Google share the same vision of using our expertise to make digital skills training more accessible for small businesses and to set them up for success. Working together, we’re encouraging small business owners and their employees to get trained, get mentored, and take advantage of the wide range of value-added support that we offer. The UK digital skills gap has widened over the course of the pandemic and we’re determined to play our part in bridging the divide as the country looks to build its post-Covid recovery. It’s a tremendous milestone for BT to have boosted the digital literacy of almost 300,000 small business employees to date and the extension of our partnership with Google will help us ramp up our programme to assist many more.”
Mary Sparrow, owner of Hippersons Boatyard, a holiday business in Suffolk, was already planning to move her customer journey and marketing activity online when the pandemic hit. But a focused conversation with Chris, a Digital Boost mentor from BT, opened her eyes to the power of YouTube and gave customer insights that helped make her holiday experiences unique. Now, bookings are higher than ever, and she plans to take advantage of the demand for stay-cations.
Mary said: “I’m so excited to move forward with the ideas Chris shared and am impressed that he found out about us before the call, especially as he is a volunteer. Our digital strategy is working, and I’m so pleased we moved online. We are creating employment opportunities locally and I am excited that customers love our new approach.”
News of the extension of BT and Google’s digital skills partnership comes as BT’s latest research revealed that almost half of all UK small firms (49 per cent) said they worried their business wouldn’t survive without external support. Meanwhile, 64 per cent said they’d be more likely to adopt new technologies if the IT and telecoms industry provided training.
Free digital skills training and business mentoring form part of BT’s Small Business Support Scheme. This is a broad package of support launched by the company last Summer to set small firms up for growth during and beyond the pandemic by boosting their connectivity, cash flow and confidence.
The company also recently announced that the BT Skills for Tomorrow programme has achieved its original target of reaching 10 million people in the UK with digital skills five years ahead of schedule and that BT had set a new ambition to upskill 25 million people by 2025.