Jamaica’s Business process outsourcing (BPO) industry has long been described as the call centre sector that offers basic customer service, but investment and trade promotions agency JAMPRO and the Business Process Industry Association of Jamaica (BPIAJ) say that BPO has more opportunities available than many Jamaicans think.
“It’s a common misconception,” said JAMPRO President Diane Edwards, “that Jamaica’s BPO sector only has jobs for persons who are only interested in customer service. Actually, the industry offers the opportunity to work for Fortune 500 companies on applications such as tech support, finance functions, debt collection, and insurance-claims management without leaving Jamaica. The industry is already diversified in Jamaica, with outsourcing of shared services centres incorporating human resources, legal, information technology, and accounting services.”
Edwards noted that international bodies like technology authority Gartner have recognised Jamaica as a location with expertise in finance and accounting. She said that investors were attracted to the country due to the level of talent available and the ability of local talent to produce services in a wide range of areas. “They’re not interested in just having persons who can answer phone calls. They want a team with a strong knowledge base and technical expertise that can provide professional multi-channel customer interface and solve customer problems. This is really an opportunity for Jamaicans to improve our competitiveness as a workforce.”
According to JAMPRO, the BPO industry is on an upward trajectory and currently injects US$323 million annually into the local economy. The majority of operations are located in Montego Bay, Kingston, and Portmore, with 24 companies operating longer than five years, and 11 companies more than 10 years, signalling that the industry is growing and here to stay.
‘Non-voice BPO services growing’
Gloria Henry, president of the Business Process Industry Association of Jamaica (BPIAJ), says that the demand for services in Jamaica has spurred the growth of the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry in the past five years, with the BPIAJ now representing at least 50 companies. Henry said, “Over the past five years, we have seen growth in non-voice BPO services, and significant growth in medical and health insurance claims processing, application development, and information technology support, among other areas.”
She explained that the image of the BPO sector as a low-skilled and low-paid option for employment did not reflect the reality of the industry and that Jamaicans educated in skilled areas should look to BPO to explore opportunities to develop long-term professional careers. “BPO jobs do not require low skills, but require specific skills, depending on the area or level of job description. It offers as early as high-school leavers the opportunity to gain experience that will be required in various industries or a push-start to a lifelong career in the BPO industry.”
With thousands of jobs expected to come on stream in the next year, Edwards posited that the range of opportunities was limitless in the sector and that persons in specialised fields should explore BPO for career opportunities. “JAMPRO’s aim is to ensure that every Jamaican has access to a real career path,” she said. “We do believe that this sector will continue to grow. I encourage all Jamaicans to learn more about employment and entrepreneurship opportunities in the BPO industry.”