Thu | Aug 24, 2017

PM eyeing BPO sector for 300,000 jobs

Published:Friday | August 26, 2016 | 8:00 AM

WESTERN BUREAU:

With seven 'shovel-ready' projects in the pipeline, Prime Minister Andrew Holness is optimistic that it is not impossible to see 300,000 Jamaicans employed to the thriving business process outsourcing (BPO) sector.

The prime minister, who broke ground for a new 63,000 square foot building at the Montego Bay Free Zone yesterday afternoon said the Free Zone was the nucleus of BPO activity comprising mainly overseas investors, of which it accounts for approximately 80 per cent of all operators in Montego Bay, and approximately 11,000 of the over 18,000 agents in the sector.

The new building, which will increase capacity by 10 per cent, is scheduled for completion by the first half of 2017 and will provide jobs for an additional 2,000 workers.

"Employment within the zone grew by 16 per cent in the last fiscal year. But what is intriguing to me is that there is potential to do far more. In fact, it has the potential to double and triple the current employment. We are not going after jobless growth. We are going after inclusive growth, meaning that the people from the country must benefit from the growth," said Holness

 

Seven similar projects

 

Confident that this was the sector that would bring him unprecedented growth, Holness said: "It's not impossible, it's not unimaginable that we could see more than 300,000 Jamaicans employed in the business process outsourcing sector. There are seven projects like this one that will come to fruition within this year and early next year. And those projects will drive employment."

Jamaica's asset is the fact that the citizens speak English, said the prime minister, however, he noted that other skills were required to go into BPO, particularly, because the aim was not only to be answering the telephone.

"We are also interested in doing the accounting work, medical records processing, computer repair and chat service, and higher level services. So in addition to language skills, other functional skills are required.

He is convinced that those skills may very well be here in the public sector already, with persons not necessarily creating the value that they could create were they employed to the booming BPO sector.

"So within a year or two, there will be an allocated realignment of human resources from other sectors to the BPO sector," he revealed.

He stated that some areas that reallocation of human resource would come from included the public sector.

In the meantime, president of the Port Authority of Jamaica, under which the Montego Bay Free Zone falls, Professor Gordon Shirley, said the building heralds a new phase in the development of the sector.

"If we are to become the leaders of the industry, we must ensure we have the amenities to make it happen."

janet.silvera@gleanerjm.com