Businessmen call for more opportunities for BPO workers
Claudia Gardner, Assignment Coordinator
Years after the introduction and rapid expansion of the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry in western Jamaica, industry players are still calling for more training options to be made available within the public-education sector, to meet ever-increasing demands.
"We have a challenge in finding talent for the call-centre industry sometimes," managing director of Gateway Solutions, Davon Crump, said. "It is important that the institutions put curriculum relating to the industry in place. Most schools have the regular courses like, for example, the hospitality tourism sector, but it is very rare that you find people being trained in this area."
Crump said the pool of skilled persons is so limited that new companies that enter the sector have resorted to head-hunting in order to kick-start their operations, a practice that affects the already established call centres whose staff members are lured away with the promise of higher salaries.
"There is so much poaching on other call centres for talent that whoever indicates they are going to pay them a little higher, they are gone (to that call centre). There is no law that says you can't poach. So if the institutions are offering the training, it will be a big help to the industry. It will eliminate some of the initial cost we have to outlay as it takes two to three weeks to conduct training and we have to pay them during training," he added.
He remains optimistic that with the recent initiative by the HEART Trust/NTA to offer training in the area, the situation could improve greatly.
But Crump's concerns have already been acceded to by Education Minister Ronald Thwaites, who, in an address at the opening of the University of Technology's (UTech) Dome Street Campus in Montego Bay last November, expressed concern that call-centre owners could "quadruple the number of employment opportunities", but were unable to do so because of "an inadequate level of digital competence that we would have to improve".
A DISSERVICE TO CALL CENTRES
Thwaites also said the country was doing call-centre operators a disservice as they were having to fork out huge sums of money to train persons whom the public-education system should have already made job-ready.
However, founder and CEO of Island Outsourcers, Yoni Epstein, said the challenges do not lie with the digital competence of Jamaicans.
"Gone are the days of questions floating around the issues of 'digital competence'. Where we have an issue is around individuals being trained for the BPO industry, so that as we grow the industry, we stay ahead of the saturation issue. Hence (this is) why as governing and lobby body of the industry the BPIAJ (Business Processing Industry Association of Jamaica), in conjunction with [Technology] Minister Phillip Paulwell, approached Minister Thwaites, the Ministry of Education, and Heart Trust/NTA to revamp the training curriculum and rev up the effort in order to stay ahead of the needs of the industry," Epstein said.
"I think that we, as an industry, need to promote that you can create a career out of working in the industry, and that there is a true growth trajectory which can create personal wealth. A motion has been made and will be increased in 2014 by Heart Trust/NTA and the BPIAJ," he added.