Despite claims that the tourism industry has the hottest career prospects for smart young college grads in the DR, the call center/BPO industry has risen to become the top career choice for many of these individuals.
Like so many countries in the Caribbean/ Latin America region (CALA), the Dominican Republic has a robust and growing tourism sector. Just like global services, tourism requires skilled talent and a steady stream of new recruits. Many skeptics have claimed that the Caribbean islands will never be able to rise to become real BPO powerhouses because there will always be alternative career paths in tourism. Is this true?
Jamaica, Barbados, St. Lucia and Grenada all have active call center/ BPO operations. (Of course, we hope someday to include Cuba on this list.) The natural question is: How much does the country’s call center industry have to fight over talent with the tourism industry? Read on to find the answer.
Tourism in the Dominican Republic has been one of the top industries for several decades but it only caters to a specific personnel type. While the call center industry boasts a variety of career backgrounds. “In tourism, they are looking for people that have studied hotel management,” said Jean Luis Caamaño, president of the Contact Center Association of the Dominican Republic. “For the call center industry that caters to the United States, we focus on current students in universities with any types of careers that are bilingual.”
“The DR has the largest concentration of US certified personnel in the entire region, way above Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Colombia, Guatemala, Nicaragua” – Jean Luis Caamaño, president of the Contact Center Association of the DR
Employees in tourism usually have set skills that are valuable when dealing with foreigners and one-on-one interactions and they must also live close to their workplace and know the surrounding areas well. In the call center industry, they search for personnel equipped with computer skills and comfortable within an office environment, since most of their work is done behind a desk.
“They [potential employees] see it as a lot of prestige in the call center,” said Caamaño. “They earn more than regular administrative assistants in a corporation, earning a lot more that in the tourism industry. The jobs pay so well that we don’t have a problem looking for people.”
Call Center employees are paid in dollar amounts and get several incentives throughout the year. This results in a comparatively low level of attrition. From perfect attendance incentives to reimbursing some percentage of university credits aside from their base salary, call centers have several techniques to attract quality talent.
By presenting itself as an attractive employment option, the call center/BPO market is gaining ground on tourism. The hotel management sector is also tapping local call centers to help with some functions. According to Caamaño, some hotel chains have even built their own call center departments within their facilities for better management and efficiency. But that hasn’t minimized the workload in other call centers, since many resorts have decided to compliment their business in order for a clearer and better definition of roles.
Call Centers in the DR have a unique advantage that they are situated in a small country, therefore facilitating opportunities for growth to their employees through trainings, workshops and accreditations.
“The DR the largest concentration of US certified personnel in the entire region, way above Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Colombia, Guatemala, Nicaragua,” said Caamaño. The fact that we have been able to give them access to US certifications and workshops, they have the possibility of becoming supervisors.”
Depending on where you are in the country, competition for talent with the tourism industry is almost non-existent.
“In Santiago, the closest tourist destination is an hour and a half away from us,” said Alkany Peña, Client Services Manager for UNO Nearshore Operations. We tend to attract more employees from universities with either medicine or IT background.”
Career development and education seem to be the key for UNO to entice prospective employees.
According to Peña, because of the global economic crisis, the hotel industry has lost clients which means downsizing their personnel. “The attrition [rate] has been stable and that is an added value to our clients,” said Peña. “I myself started as an industrial engineer and have been in the call center industry for ten years. That is why we try to present to the people the benefits and in turn make the DR a good location for clients to outsource.”