The BPO industry in Jamaica may soon find it easier to hire professionals; the Avasant Foundation is launching an initiative to train unemployed youths in call centre service skills. Known as the Avasant Youth Digital Employment Initiative, the program is expected to train hundreds of people in the years to come.
The foundation, based in California and run by management consulting firm Avasant LLC, says it has already trained 30 youths as part of a pilot and nearly all of them have obtained employment.
Such an initiative was long overdue in Jamaica, where the youth unemployment rate is hovering at more than 25 percent. Moreover, it is a win-win for everyone involved as the program is designed to bridge the gap between employers looking to hire skilled workers and youths seeking employment opportunities.
“We are planning to launch similar initiatives in countries including Haiti and Colombia,” said Anupam Govil in an interview with Nearshore Americas. The first training program was held in Kingston, and Avasant is now talking of expanding it to Montego Bay, another Jamaican city where the call center industry is on the rise.
Each training program lasts just six weeks, during which participants, who range from 18 to 24 years, will be trained in social skills, communications, professionalism, technology in the workplace, and customer care.
The training also includes interview practice and field trips to local service providers, where they will get first-hand experience of the call centers.
The foundation is not offering BPO skills other than call center service, as there is little demand for other BPO skills in the country. “This is just the beginning. As we mature the program, we will be looking at bringing in high-value skills. Currently, we are focusing on the industry needs, because we want to make sure that every youth we train finds a job immediately,” Govil added.
Local non-profit ‘Teens for Technology’ is helping Avasant with identifying youths with the basic education qualifications to undergo training. In addition, the University of Technology has opened up its facilities for the trainers.
“The NGO and the university identify potential candidates. In addition, we put out advertisements in the local publication for youths seeking jobs,” Govil said. “The selected candidates will have to face qualifying tests because we want to make sure that they have the basic aptitude for the BPO jobs.”
After six weeks of training, the students will graduate with a certification from the Avasant Foundation. With the certificate in hand, they can knock on the doors of call centers, seeking jobs. Govil said BPO firms – including Hinduja Global Services, Sutherland and Xerox – have agreed to support the initiative by taking on as many youths as they can.
When asked why the foundation chose Jamaica, Govil said, “We were looking for a country where there is a big need for BPO skills but a lot of the population has no access to training. And, we also wanted a country that already has some of the foundational pillars for the BPO industry. Jamaica looked to be the right fit.”
An English-speaking country close to the United States, Jamaica’s BPO industry is predicted to grow at over 15 percent annually. The Caribbean country, according to Avasant, accounts for US$145 million of the US$2.5 billion Caribbean & Latin American BPO Industry.
JAMPRO, Jamaica’s investment promotion agency, has often stated that it is aiming to create 30,000 jobs in the BPO sector by 2020. “We think that is a big target; it has to be achieved through concerted industry-wide effort. But we will do our best,” Govil added.
Avasant has sourced trainers from foreign BPO firms already operating in the Caribbean country. “We give them the platform and an allowance for the youths undergoing training. We provide an allowance because many of these youths have no financial means to take part in the program,” Govil said.