Operators: BPO industry employs many high-level professionals
Leading operators in local outsourcing claim that the remuneration being offered to its Jamaican workers is comparable to or betters any of the other industries in Jamaica. However, they are concerned that the gains achieved over the past five years could be undone by uninformed, negative perceptions about the sector.
There are approximately 55 business process outsourcing (BPO) firms operating on local soil, employing an estimated 32,000 workers and contributing about US$1.7 billion to the local economy in the last five years.
Industry players are denying the accusation that they are offering Jamaicans menial wages for low skilled tasks.
"It is so hard to find quality people, because of the perception being created by individuals that clearly have their information twisted," said Davon Crump, chief executive officer (CEO) of Global Outsourcing Solution Limited. "Even if there are one or two firms that might offer lower than normal rates, our sector has workers just leaving high schools that are earning over $100,000 monthly and it is hard for you to find that being offered in other industries."
"My payroll reflects sales people, on different projects, that are earning nearly $200,000 monthly," continued Crump, a known advocate of the great opportunities in the sector. "That is far more than workers at their level in the tourism, banking or insurance sector earn."
DEPENDS ON LEVEL
According to Crump, a desktop support in an information technology department, with basic training in information technology (IT), earns about $70,000 to $80,000 monthly; but an IT specialist attracts in the range of US$2,000 to US$3,000.
"It depends on your level of qualification, and experience, but this does not sound like a low-paying sector to me," he stressed.
While agreeing that outsourcing services by accountants and lawyers would create more earning opportunities, Gloria Henry, president of the Business Process Industry Association of Jamaica (BPIAJ), believes Jamaica still has some way to go to be competitive with those services.
"The BPO industry is still relatively new to Jamaica and for a long time did not command the respect and support of the government and was unknown to many," she told The Gleaner. "Now that we have everyone's attention, like other industries, we will evolve and optimise on the job offerings."
"But even as we move up the value chain, the fact that we have many accountants and lawyers, for example, does not mean they are ready to provide the services in a BPO environment," argued Henry. "Advanced training is required to prepare for those jobs."
SALARY SCALE IN BPO SECTOR
The BPIAJ shared that:
* Some 60 per cent of the high-level positions in the outsourcing sector are being held by Jamaicans
* Data from local firms show:
- Senior claims specialist earning $813-$1,000 per hour
- Assistant managers - $1200 - $1,300 per hour
- Operations manager attracts a salary of between $3.5 million and $5 million annually.
* In small finance and accounting shared services sites, salaries are:
- $1.70 million - $1.9 million per year for a payroll analyst
- Payroll coordinator - $2.0 million - $2.2 million annually
- Payroll supervisor - $2.2 million - $2.5 million per year
- Finance manager - $4.5 million to $5 million annually
- Director of operations, from $6.5 million to $13 million annually
"At the level of front office, horizontal services, a BPO with 5,000 employees would have more than 500 professionals such as team managers, supervisors, account managers, trainers, quality associates, directors, VPs, accountants, HR professionals, IT specialists, among others," the association explained. "Therefore, at a minimum, we have over 3,200 professionals serving our BPO centers."
Henry noted, "These professionals require, in most cases, tertiary education and they earn salaries that complement their academic qualification and work experience."
... Not enough interest in software development, says stakeholder
The lowest rate paid by Knightfox Apps Design, a highly rated Jamaican software development firm, is US$35 per hour, which is higher than the average salary of US$33 for a similar role in Belarus.
"An individual at our firm that works 40 hours per week usually takes home about US$1,600 monthly and that is the lower end of the scale," chief executive officer Egbert von Frankenberg said. "But we are in a globally competitive market, so we have to pay attractive rates to attract the best in the business."
However, von Frankenberg is expressing disappointment that more tertiary level students have not opted to pursue a career in software development. "We do quality work in Jamaica, but there is not enough interest in software development, yet there is not enough human capital for these higher paying jobs."
"Most of the students are complaining that software development is too hard and therefore are not being trained for the needs of the market," he said. "It is very alarming and if we don't start dealing with this now, we will find ourselves very far behind in our global competitiveness."