The quest for well-educated, English-speaking talent is one of the most significant factors when deciding on BPO destinations. Trinidad and Tobago was highlighted as having “one of the largest pools of English-speaking talent in the Western Hemisphere outside of North America,” according to the AT Kearney Global Services Location Index 2017 report. And local and international BPO providers are starting to notice.
Peter Gillette of DirecOne, an omnichannel contact center operator founded in Trinidad and Tobago in 2001, points to the level of education across the two-island republic. He mentions the level of computer literacy and internet literacy in particular, which, he says, lends itself well to BPO work. “In terms of the raw material coming out of our school systems, I think you’ll find people that are educated, have a command of the English language, a command of math and all the important things that it takes to be successful… in BPO,” he says.
Education is the Key
The AT Kearney report also noted that both primary and secondary education are free to all citizens. Government subsidies are also in place for tertiary education, facilitating the development of a wealth of process-oriented labor resources. There are more than 81 tertiary level institutions in the country, including three universities, some of which are developing skills for industry-focused BPO, such as banking, financial services, insurance (BFSI), healthcare, and finance and accounting.
Liam Donnelly, General Manager at telecoms and business solutions company Digicel Business, which operates in 31 markets in the Caribbean, Central America and Asia Pacific, agrees that the workforce in Trinidad and Tobago is very well educated. “I think it is also a very high energy workforce, and very hard working. I have worked in multiple different markets… and I would certainly rank the Trinidad and Tobago workforce very, very highly.”
Donnelly says the workforce has been immensely flexible, working with Digicel and the government to adapt to the current crisis. Digicel’s internal culture is built around the team mentality for both their business and its customers. “Once they saw the strategy and the objectives, everyone jumped on board last year. No, I couldn’t more highly recommend some of the workforce here. And I think the ability to adapt and be agile during this time is certainly a credit to everyone.” Digicel shifted to a primarily work-from-home model once the Covid-19 crisis hit. The firm found its workforce in Trinidad and Tobago was sufficiently agile and adaptable to make the move.
An Adaptable Accent
Gillette also believes that the accent is easy to Americanize or neutralize. That means that unlike in Asian countries like the Philippines, accent neutralization efforts require less time and investment.
“So there’s the education, there is the accent, and because of our proximity… to the United States, and our access to all the cable channels, I think we have great empathy with our clients in the north, and a great understanding of… what they go through and what they expect in good customer service,” Gillette says. He adds that these elements do not require heavy investment in terms of training.
Evolving Bilingual and Spanish Skills
Gillette also points to the growing capacity in Spanish and bilingual support, saying that the influx of Venezuelan immigrants has grown that capacity from levels in 2004, when there were only around 40 to 50 Spanish speaking, and bilingual agents. “I believe that we offer a great bilingual opportunity, including [a] native Spanish speaking opportunity to clients that are looking for that type of mix as well,” he says.
Overall, both Gillette and Donnelly believe that talent in Trinidad and Tobago is one of its core selling-points. “I think we have a number of internationals that have discovered these hidden gems in Trinidad and Tobago. We’ve not been forced – like many of the other destinations – to really put the amount of marketing dollars behind Trinidad and Tobago as a BPO destination. But certainly, we are one of those hidden gems,” Gillette says.