Nearshore Americas

Moving Up the Value Chain Becomes a More Serious Focus for Jamaica

Jamaica’s investment and trade promotions agency, Jamaica Promotions Corporation (Jampro), is looking to establish higher-end jobs in the knowledge-services industry and there is growing recognition that such an undertaking will required sustained commitment and focus.

Vice President of Sales and Promotions at Jampro Ricardo Durrant made clear that this is a key part of Jampro’s strategy going forward. He made his remarks during the Nearshore Americas-led CX Jamaica investment mission, held November 6-9th, in Kingston and Ocho Rios, Jamaica.

“Currently we are known for sales and customer service,” Durrant said. “So the Jamaican workers are able to address unscripted situations and difficult sales and customer service situations.” Expanding on those existing skills will be crucial to gain attention as a country that does more than ‘just’ BPO.

The Pursuit of Specialized Skills

“Going forward, we would like to move up the value chain to more knowledge process outsourcing such as medical and other types of technology driven outsourcing. We expect that over the next 5 to 10 years,” Durrant said, during a gathering of BPO industry leaders,   including executives from Itel-BPO, IBEX Global and HGS, Nearshore Americas mission delegates from the United States, the local press and Jampro team-members.

Roger Williams, national outsourcing coordinator at Jampro

Roger Williams, national outsourcing coordinator at Jampro, affirmed that the Jamaican workforce was prepared for this transition as over the years the workforce included not only high school graduates but also tertiary trained graduates.

Williams added that the Government of Jamaica has a robust training program through its local training agency, the HEART Trust NTA, which in the last three to four years has been working with the industry to develop training program to match the needs of the industry. Earlier in the briefing, Shullette Cox, Jampro’s Vice President for Research, Advocacy and Project Implementation said that the Government of Jamaica had secured an Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) loan funding support of US$15 million under the Skills Development for Global Services Project, which was launched this year and was aimed at training more persons for the industry.

“(It is aimed at) developing the global services industry by training persons for the job – from call centre agents right up through the value chain to knowledge process workers into marketing for your company, and marketing for Jamaica as a destination for outsourcing,” she said.

She further noted that Jamaica has enthusiastic operators who are dedicated to ensuring that the values of their clients are respected and their goals met. Yoni Epstein, founder and Chief Executive Officer of Itel-BPO and chair of the board of the Jamaica-based Global Services Project, said this move by the government was an indication that the country is acknowledging it must continue to evolve to keep pace with the requirements of industry.

It’s About Quality 

Anand Biradar, Jamaica country manager of HGS (Hinduja Global Services) said that his organization was impressed with the “innate curiosity” of Jamaican workers which h noted becomes very evident during training exercises. “That increased our training time but then once the workers come out (of training), they have the fastest learning curve and that is tremendous,” he said. Responding to questions on workforce engagement and retention, outsourcing firms present shared that churn rates hover around 5% per month.

Many observers of the Jamaica BPO market have concluded that the quality of the workforce has been perhaps the central most important factor in the double-digit growth the country has experienced, year after year. There are an estimated 36,000 professionals working in the industry currently, employed by over a dozen organizations that export their products and services.

Data Protection Becomes Vital 

The protection of client’s data remains a critical aspect of service delivery, the companies attending the conference noted. “There is a tremendous amount of training that we have to do for each employee on an annual basis in order to pass those certification and if you don’t pass those certification you won’t get any business,” said Epstein.

Delegates attending the mission, several of whom work for Fortune 500 organizations, stressed that, in addition to the standard types of training around security and data protection, they also said that review of vendors increasingly revolves around the presence of a culture of protecting client assets. “For some companies who have never gone Nearshore or Offshore, the risk around data protection are weighted very carefully,” one of the delegates noted.

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The CX Jamaica Investment briefing, which was held at Jampro’s head office on Trafalgar Road in Kingston introduced investors to business opportunities currently available in Jamaica, and featured testimonials from companies that have already invested in the country’s outsourcing sector. The briefing, which targeted local and international investors, was part of the CX Nearshore Jamaica three-day mission that saw senior BPO and contact centre decision-makers being immersed in the country’s sector.

The delegates met stakeholders from private and public entities, and conducted site visits to investment-ready BPO spaces. Local outsourcing company stakeholders also shared their experiences as part of efforts to further encourage the development and investment discourse around the sector.

Dionne Rose

A communication specialist and award winning journalist of 23 years. Dionne Rose has been published in a variety of Jamaican newspapers such as the Jamaica Gleaner, the Jamaica Herald, and The Courier, a magazine for Africa, Caribbean, Pacific and European Union relations. She has experience covering business, parliament, health, labor, and environment beats. She holds a MA in Communications Studies and a Bachelors Degree in History from the University of the West Indies. She also has a Diploma in Education from the Mico Teachers College.

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