Shortage of BPO workers getting worse
Gloria Henry, president, GlobalServices Association of Jamaica

THE chronic shortage of workers in Jamaica's business process outsourcing (BPO) industry is getting worse and threatening the future growth of the sector, particularly with new players setting up operations locally.

This shortage comes at a time when the industry is not just recovering from COVID-19 but also expanding, with new players eyeing Jamaica to expand their operations while local players are talking about growing their busineses on the island.

BPO sources say the situation is getting worse, particularly with two new players coming into the Jamaican market space in recent time.

Over 45,000 individuals are currently employed in the sector, but the demand is closer to 60,000. Still, the sector is aimimg to reach 50,000 by March this year.

Local BPO companies such as Sutherland Global, Ibex Global, itel, and TeamHGS have expanded their footprint in Jamaica as a consequence of higher demand for services, thereby creating the chronic labour shortage now being experienced.

Ibex Jamaica recently added more operational space to its Portmore facility and will be seeking to fill 1,300 jobs.

LABOUR CRISIS COULD GET EVEN WORSE

Industry sources say the situation is getting worse because fresh recruits aren't being found fast enough to fill the desired need which exists.

President of Global Services Association of Jamaica Gloria Henry is concerned that the crisis could only worsen in the near future, particularly given the association's projection of at least 10 call centres being opened in Jamaica between July 2021 and March 2022.

BPOs in Jamaica often hire high school graduates in the hope of training them on the job later. Our sources pointed to the disruption suffered by the country's educational sector following the outbreak of the pandemic nearly two years ago, noting that this has left a wide deficit in the recruitment gap.

Some analysts blame shortage of BPO workers on the shrinking pool of fresh high school graduates and the growing popularity of workfrom- home arrangements.

Many senior BPO employees are landing jobs with overseas companies and a few of them are even launching their own business ventures.

In commenting on the situation, president of the Jamaica Employer's Federation David Wan contends that the BPO industry is in a dilemma.

According to him, “they [BPOs] cannot offer exorbitant salaries to new employees because such a move could force the senior staff to seek a pay rise...the industry cannot even attract skilled workers from overseas”.

BEEFING UP LOCAL TALENT TO STEM THE LABOUR SHORTAGE

In spite of the chronic labour shortage and the challenge in getting recruits, Henry is adamant that all is not lost, pointing to initiatives being rolled out to plug the labour gap.

“We have the Global Services Skills Project headed by the Global Services Skills Council, and the council has developed a number of skills development training programmes to upskill and train persons, working collaboratively with HEART [/ NSTA Trust]. So we have been working on building out the talent pipeline to support the sector and alleviate challenges such as attrition,” she told the Jamaica Observer.

According to her, “It's easier now to get persons to apply but when they apply, we have to continue to sieve through several applications to find the right fit.”

WAN...they [BPOs] cannotoffer exorbitant salaries tonew employees because sucha move could force the seniorstaff to seek a pay rise
BY DURRANT PATE Observer business writer pated@jamaicaobserver.com

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