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Stakeholders working to ready labour force for BPO demand

BY MARK CUMMINGS
Editor-at-large/Western Bureau
cummingsm@jamaicaobsever.com

Monday, April 16, 2018

ROSE HALL, St James — ATTORNEY General Marlene Malahoo Forte says the Government is projecting 200,000 jobs in the business process outsourcing (BPO) sector over the next three years.

In delivering the keynote address at the opening of the inaugural two-day Outsource2Jamaica Symposium and Expo at the Montego Bay Convention Centre in Rose Hall on Thursday, Malahoo Forte, who is also the Member of Parliament for St James West Central, added that the Government is not only “all in at the highest level” but sees the sector as critical in every growth projection going forward.

She, however, noted that there is a concern that the labour force is not keeping pace with the number of skilled positions that are rapidly becoming available and that all hands will have to be on deck to ensure that “qualified workers are available” to seize the opportunities.

“The Business Process Industry Association of Jamaica (BPIAJ), which is responsible for hosting this symposium, has just recently signed a memorandum of understanding with the HEART Trust/NTA to provide training specifically for the industry,” Malahoo Forte noted.

“We also have a Housing, Opportunity, Production, and Employment (HOPE) programme that is working to ensure that young school leavers are ready for the thousands of jobs in this industry.”

She said that, in addition, JAMPRO has also entered the fray by engaging some of the local universities and key stakeholders so that graduates can be aware of the “higher-level jobs in the new areas”.

“So, in spite of the challenges in meeting the demands, work is being done to ensure that those challenges are overcome,” she stressed.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness last year officially launched the HOPE programme to provide educational and job opportunities for young people. The initiative targets individuals, aged 18 to 24, who are not employed or enrolled in a school or programme of training.

In the meantime, the attorney general added that “800,000 sq ft of space” was built out “or retrofitted” for the BPO over the last year, by both private and public sector operators.

“And there are several projects this year that will make additional space available. The Montego Bay BPO project has already been completed and is to be launched in the coming weeks. This one is near and dear to my heart because it falls in the constituency in which I am the Member of Parliament,” she said.

For her part, Dr Janet Dyer, managing director of the Heart Trust/NTA, said her organisation last year invested more than $108 million in the BPO sector, adding that “we are projecting to spend even more in this new fiscal year”.

“In 2017-2018, we enrolled over 18,000 persons in our BPO training programmes, and well, more than 11,000 persons have already attained their work-ready certification,” she noted.

“We plan to expand these numbers as the BPO market demands more trained graduates. We are currently retrofitting a building at the Vocational Training Development Institute at Gordon Town Road, (St Andrew), to house a BPO incubator at an estimated cost of $60 million,” Dyer said.

The Outsource2Jamaica Symposium and Expo was staged by BPIAJ and its members and partners, including JAMPRO. It ran from April 12-13 and was designed to provide a platform to raise the profile of Jamaica as a BPO destination.