PM Holness bats for HOPE's potential
Prime Minister Andrew Holness is expressing confidence that the Housing, Opportunity, Production and Employment (HOPE) programme, which his Government has introduced, can supply the quality workforce required for the business process outsourcing (BPO) sector.
Holness also noted that the programme, which he expects to serve as a catalyst in the drive to reduce unemployment among the youth, would also impact crime.
"It is amazing to think that an industry like this, that employs people and has the potential to employ a vast number of people, that an actual constraint to its growth would be having the human resources that are trained at a level to assume work immediately," said Holness, while giving the keynote address at the official opening of the new itelBPO Smart Solutions campus in Montego Bay, last Wednesday.
"It is really an indictment on Jamaica and we have not been able to, so far, provide the human resources to keep pace with the demand for the services here in Jamaica.
"The HOPE programme is specifically designed to deal with the knowledge, skill and attitude model to get our young people with a certain level of knowledge in which they will operate to develop their skills," continued Holness.
"But, more importantly, (to) adjust their attitudes, so that they are work-ready and in a frame of mind to be productive. Very soon, you will have a supply of work-ready persons to employ in to your operations."
In speaking to the virtues of getting the young people ready for employment, the prime minister said the BPO industry suits the lifestyles of the current generation of young people.
"This industry is about people, and many of the people you will be employing are young people, millennials, and they have a different outlook, a different perspective," noted Holness. "This industry actually suits their lifestyle, suits their outlook, and if we invest in it as a partnership - Government and business supporting - we shall be able to make a significant dent in youth unemployment in Jamaica. Once you start to have an impact on youth unemployment, that is when you start to have an impact on crime and violence."
... BPO sector generating jobs
The business process outsourcing (BPO) sector has been a key generator of jobs over the past five years, moving from 12,000 workers in 2011 to approximately 22,000 persons currently, with more than 50 firms operating, mainly in Montego Bay, Kingston and St Andrew, Manchester, Portmore and recently Hanover.
Currently, the sector is the island's largest employer, and the fastest-growing industry, contributing more than US$400 million annually to the local economy, up from the US$230 million recorded in 2012, but this has also put pressure on the highly rated local talent pool, with operators struggling to fill vacant positions.
Several educational institutions, including the HEART Trust/NTA, have in recent years tailored their curricula to support the rapid growth in the industry. The HOPE initiative was introduced to offer training for young persons with the capacity to succeed in the sector.