Once hailed as the new ‘Silicone Island’, hype around Jamaica as a potential IT outsourcing hotspot has been brewing for some time.
Now, a bold $10 million plan by Utah-based coding school and software development company Bottega, and Paul Ahlstrom of Alta Global Ventures to train 6,000 students annually on the Caribbean island has been launched.
The program, named Coding Foundations, will see the school train 1,000 full stack engineers annually in Jamaica from 2020. On top of the full stack engineers, 5,000 students will also be trained in computer science basics in the capital of Kingston.
Bottega says it sees the country of three million as having a lot of untapped potential. The company’s president, Fili Ledezma-Soto, told Nearshore Americas that the move was natural. “We had known for a while that it is a good spot to be,” he said.
Ledezma-Soto has over 20 years experience in the Nearshore market, previously being the Vice President at Vice President at Teleperformance, Sutherland Global and Concentrix.
He added: “This is just natural evolution – the country started being targeted [by international firms] for low-skill jobs like data entry and call centers, and this has impacted Jamaica in a tremendous way.”
“Another big reason is the tremendous vision and support the Jamaican government and the industry leaders have provided
“Jamaica is very well positioned to do it. The market is already leaning towards Jamaica – the stage is set for Jamaica to participate in high skillset cognitive tasks.”
“Jamaica speaks English, all coding is in english, it’s a Nearshore market; a couple of our graduates are from Jamaica – one works at NASA – kept pointing out the great potential the country has, particularly in the way the educational system is preparing the foundation for what could become great engineers.”
“Anyone who has the initiative to learn how to code in Jamaica, now has the opportunity,” he added.
Training an engineer on the basics coding course – which will be fully online – is valued at US $500 per student. Those on the full stack course will cost $7,500 per student to train. The course can also be completed online.
The cash for the first year of training will come from the Bottega Perpetual Endowment Fund, partly funded by Ahlstrom and other entrepreneurs at Alta Global Ventures.
For year two, it is expected graduates will then contribute 10% of their income into the fund, for three years, as part of a “pay it forward” education fund to make this opportunity available to additional Jamaican citizens.
By year three, the endowment fund will become self sufficient.
Using its proprietary Learning Management System devCamp.com, Bottega will be able to train students in such a way that their graduates are “production ready” to design and develop modern software applications and have the ability to begin mentoring others.
The initiative was announced earlier this year at the DBJ Investment Conference in Kingston, Jamaica, by international venture capital expert Paul Ahlstrom.
“Increasing the number of quality skilled engineers will take Jamaica’s technology ecosystem to the next level,” he said. “The partnership with Bottega supports this mission as it increases the quality and quantity of engineers in the markets that we serve.”
Kingston’s HEART College of Innovation and Technology said the investment in Jamaica’s youth had been a “long time coming.”
Kenesha Campbell, director of national training at the center, told Nearshore Americas there is a huge pool of talent to choose from: “There are around 40,000 people graduating high school here every year in Jamaica.
“What we are seeing is that Jamaica is moving up the value chain in the global services sector in terms of the IT services and the government is focused on this. This initiative is supporting Jamaica’s growth and will help attract investors.
“There are a lot of people here who are not employed but are very trainable and have the right attitude.”
Georgette Shirley-Dyer, Managing Director at HEART College, said she was seeing more and more newly-trained Jamaican engineers migrating and good pool of young and willing students to recruit from.
Egbert Egbert von Frankenberg, the CEO and Founder of Knightfox App Design Ltd, told Nearshore Americas: “I think it’s a fantastic opportunity for Bottega to come to the country because we do need additional opportunities to upgrade talent and get diamonds out of the rough.
“We were struggling in the past with talent but over the past three years it has steadily improved and now with Bottega coming this will really help us to get the critical mass of talent that is required to push for the upscale of outsourcing.
“In the past we found to some extent there was a misalignment of what was being taught at university level but the universities have now understood and have changed it. We have definitely seen a shift and now it is just time for us to scale and for Bottega to come at this time is the right approach because we are ready.”
The upskilling of workers in Jamaica in the Business Processing industry has been a critical issue for some time in order to respond to the increasing technological demands of the marketplace.
President of the Business Process Industry Association of Jamaica (BPIAJ), Gloria Henry, previously said that the business process industry incorporates 80% customer service; 18% knowledge process, which includes shared services; and 2% IT outsourcing – a critical focus area as the sector aims to move up the value chain
Ledezma-Soto added: “This is the natural evolution of the skill-set. Before it was BPO, now Jamaica can take advantage of the high skills, high pay, services that Jamaica can provide to cater to the high demand globally for software engineers.”