Government needs innovative policies
The following is an excerpt from President of the Business Processing Industry Association of Jamaica, Yoni Epstein, at the association's breakfast meeting on July 11, 2014.
It is a known fact that the ICT/BPO industry is evolving and growing globally. Jamaica, the English-speaking centre of the outsourcing hub in the region, is emerging as a 'destination of choice' and is strategically positioned to benefit from this global expansion.
Our local ICT/BPO industry has grown exponentially over the past decade, making it one of the primary economic drivers of the country. Currently, approximately 14,000 individuals are employed to the sector, which generates total revenue of US$350 million.
Over the next two years, a two-fold growth in the local ICT/BPO industry is anticipated. This will increase the level of employment in the industry to over 22,000 persons. To speed the attainment of this ambitious goal along, I urge the Government to foster programmes and initiatives that will improve the skills of the labour pool, develop infrastructure and improve the business environment.
It is my belief that Jamaica's economic success will not come from one sector but from the convergence of critical sectors, namely manufacturing, services and the Government. It is in this convergence that the opportunity of the Jamaica Logistics Hub Initiative (JLH) lies. Through the JLH, manufacturing, tourism, medical treatment, education, ICT, BPO and knowledge process outsourcing could all combine to move Jamaica forward.
But this convergence can only be successful if it is efficiency-driven and innovation-driven. Hence, the Government must innovate with new policies that reduce red tape, facilitate the divestment of non-core businesses, develop human talent and availability; promote business growth and expansion and market Brand Jamaica.
We cannot afford to lose jobs, revenues or momentum. The stakes are high, and there is much to be gained if bold actions are taken.
Logistics training kicks into high gear
Many experts have hinged the success of Jamaica becoming a globally competitive logistics-centred economy on the preparedness of the workforce and, as such, many institutions have been fortifying their offerings to meet the demands that the hub could possibly create.
With the possibility for one of the proposed trans-shipment hubs, on the Goat Islands in the Portland Bight, netting some 2,000 jobs in the construction phase and the creation of another 10,000 jobs when the project is fully implemented, Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller has warned that many of these jobs could go to foreigners if Jamaicans are not prepared.
But this is only a drop in the bucket compared to Singapore, which has more than 7000 logistics companies, employing over 180,000 people.
It is for this reason that Dr Fritz Pinnock, executive director of the Caribbean Maritime Institute (CMI) and head of the Logistics Task Force Sub-Committee on Education, has called on the country to reshape its education system to meet the demands the hub will create.
SCHOOLS GETTING READY
Apart from CMI, several schools have heeded this call and are already putting strategies in place to ensure that the population is hub-ready.
In western Jamaica, the Sam Sharpe Teachers' College has embarked on a mission to train some 15 faculty members in International Shipping and Logistics.
These educators are enrolled in a diploma programme in International Shipping and Logistics being delivered by the Caribbean Maritime Institute over the summers of 2014 and 2015.
They are being trained to equip teacher trainees in the subject ahead of its introduction in schools by the Caribbean Examinations Council next year.
"We are responding in a meaningful way to the challenges in society and have decided to train a new type of teacher for this era who can be called to serve in many capacities while not compromising the teacher-training component," explained Pinnock.
The University of Technology's (UTech) vice-president for Community Service and Development, Professor Rosalea Hamilton, has said that the university is now offering specialised courses to enable Jamaicans to take up jobs in the logistics sector.
Speaking at a recent forum on the logistics hub on the school's campus, Hamilton posited that, "Education is a major plank of our overarching economic development plan, and there is no doubt that, central to (that) success, as the Government has proposed, is the roll-out of this logistics hub. Preparation ... is pivotal (and) I think we can agree that the highest standard of education and training are the only vehicles to achieving this goal."
To this end, she said that UTech is taking steps to be part of this process and will be using an integrated approach to augment its course offerings with logistics-based modules.
The HEART Trust/NTA and community colleges have also been developing courses to meet the demands that the hub will create.
READY FOR TRAINING
The Excelsior Community College (ECC), in Kingston, has said that it is prepared to train between 350 to 500 students per year to take up jobs in the logistics and shipping industries.
Mandated by the CARICOM Education for Employment Programme to offer courses in logistics, ECC is partnering with Niagara College and The Marine Institute of Memorial University, which both have experience in delivering logistics-based courses.
For the national vocational training institute, training in logistics is now one of its major areas of focus. The HEART Trust/NTA has gone as far as to set up an apprenticeship board.
The board has been mandated to work closely with the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce to develop relevant programmes geared specifically at training for the impending logistics hub.
Denworth Finnikin, senior director in the Workforce Development and Employment division of the training agency, has said the institution was positioning itself "to provide the training necessary for the jobs that will become available in the Jamaican logistics hub."