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BPO stakeholders go after Portmore's educated labour force

Published:Monday | November 19, 2018 | 12:19 AMPaul Clarke/Gleaner Writer
Gloria Henry

Portmore, St Catherine could become the next frontier for the fast-growing Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) sector, as industry stakeholders seek to expand their operations to take advantage of the Sunshine City's large and highly educated labour pool.

However, even with the current growth spurt as observed primarily in Kingston and St Andrew with thousands of seats added, the President of the Business Process Industry Association of Jamaica (BPIAJ) Gloria Henry, believes that labour shortage at the middle management to senior management levels are major obstacles to continued growth.

She told The Gleaner that the shortage is mainly at the supervisory level upward, but noted that steps have been taken to mitigate the situation.

"The industry is fast growing with seats being built out constantly, mainly in Kingston, which is very comforting for us, because we always want the growth to spread across the island," she said. "The concern we have about labour shortage is not necessarily at the bottom, but it is in the higher value services, at the supervisory level, at the middle and senior management level, which we are now experiencing some gaps in terms of availability of persons."

She pointed out that as a result, efforts have been made to fix the problem by expanding partnerships the sector already has already established with various training institutions.

Henry said that despite the impressive growth of the BPO industry in Kingston, Portmore is likely where the next big spurt of growth could happen.

"Portmore is ripe for the BPO sector in terms of areas that would be ideal for additional seats. It's a community with a large educated population and although we have some centres in the municipality, I believe there is a need for further expansion in that area," she stated.

"Currently we are expanding in St Ann; we have expanded in St Mary, St Elizabeth, Clarendon, Manchester, St James and Westmoreland, and so St Catherine and Portmore has the biggest capacity for growth."

Access to tertiary education positions Portmore for growth

Henry said that the access to tertiary institutions and being a dormitory community to Kingston is a plus in Portmore 's favour. The Portmore Community College has developed a successful Bachelor in Business Process Outsourcing programme, which will be adopted by and rolled out across various other community colleges.

"A curriculum was developed through the Centre for Occupational Studies and that too has been rolled out through the Ministry of Education. In addition, the Caribbean Maritime University is running a pilot right now and it will be rolled out in all the community colleges in Jamaica at a date that's to be decided.

Additionally, an initiative called the Global Services Skills Development Project will also be rolled out. The initiative is expected to resolve some of the intrinsic problems in the sector, according to Henry.

"That will see a finishing school being rolled out and will also include a train-the-trainer programme being developed, and will also include the expansion of the network of trainers in the sector," said Henry.

She reasoned that the new programme will likely result in the training of approximately 12,000 people and that she envisages that the initiatives, among other things, will help to address deficiencies in the sector.