Continued cuts in training for television professionals will come back to bite broadcasters, writes Peter Block.

There can be few industries where continual, comprehensive staff development is more crucial than broadcasting.

Broadcasting remains at the forefront of challenge and change, whether from the opportunities of new media and delivery channels, to the competition for audiences and revenue. Thereforeit’s vital those working in the sector are sufficiently trained so they can adapt to the flux and evolve along with technology.

The BTSR has recently collated entries for this year’s National Training Award for the Broadcast Industry (it’s the only industry-specific category within the NTA programme). A record number of companies, from national broadcasters to small, independent producers, submitted entries.

It’s an encouraging response – especially given the budgetary and time pressures companies are under – and illustrates that many broadcasters are still dedicating resources to new, effective training initiatives.

And that’s reflected in findings from the latest annual BTSR Training & Skills Report.

The Report – an evaluation of 70 broadcasting companies (17 radio and 53 TV) –reveals a small but significant upward trend. Standards of training and development continue to be high, with an increasing number of broadcasters considered to be providing good quality provision to education.

However, some companies admit to still providing only very basic level training for employees – and there has been adecline in the number of broadcasters with a dedicated training budget.

Diminishing funds for external training means a greater reliance will be placed on in-house skills education. In many cases it will be challenging to ensure line managers, who in the past have been reliant on third-party support, are capable of designing, developing and delivering training programmes.

Our report also highlights concern over staff induction, particularly those returning to work after prolonged absence, such as maternity leave, whilst it remains a concern how little attention is given to evaluating the success or otherwise of training schemes.

Evaluation doesn’t have to entail complex RoI indices; it can simply take the form of routine staff interviews, staff churn monitoring, and line manager observations to note whether training is being absorbed and translated into improved performance. If initiatives aren’t evaluated it’s impossible to assess whether they’re working…or a waste of money.  

We understand financial pressures are forcing broadcasters to seek cost savings. Training isn’t exempt from scrutiny – it should be part of spending reviews to identify potential efficiency gains – but any company that views training as expendable, and wields the axe accordingly, risks lasting damage to their future competitiveness. Jeopardising staff development now is certain to be exposed further down the line.

The key to success is to ensure training is linked directly to the business and business needs – not to see it as an ‘add on’. For that to happen there needs to be genuine interest, recognition and contribution to staff learning at the very highest level within organizations…and for those designing and delivering the training to demonstrate that value to the business.

Broadcasters must engage with the future and, intrinsically, the skills and development necessary to keep the UK broadcast industry at the cutting edge of the world’s creative economy.

Peter Block is executive director at the Broadcast Training & Skills Regulator (BTSR)

  • For a copy of the BTSR Training & Skills Report 2008, call the BTSR on 0844 561 1675 or download it from http://www.btsr.org.uk/reports.php

  • The BTSR hosts its second Learning & Development in Broadcasting Conference on 13 October at Bafta in London. Entitled “Training on a Shoestring” the event, chaired by Maggie Philbin, features a series of seminars and workshops presented by thought leaders from both HR and broadcasting.For more details and discussion topics, or to register to attend, visit: www.ldinbroadcastingconference09.co.uk

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