Growth & Jobs | Young J'cans get BPO training, job placement

More than 400 young Jamaicans have completed comprehensive skill development training for the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry in the past three years under the Avasant Digital Youth Employment Initiative, which has consistently secured jobs for approximately 95 per cent of its graduates.

The programme, which is being implemented by the American-based Avasant Foundation - the not-for-profit arm of management consulting firm Avasant - recently concluded eight five-week training courses in Kingston and Montego Bay. A total of 247 students graduated this year, with many of them already obtaining jobs in the sector.

Great success

Chitra Rajeshwari, executive director of the Avasant Foundation, noted that choosing Jamaica as the starting point for the expansion of the initiative into Latin America and the Caribbean has been justified based on the results to date.

"We already offered this training in Africa and India, and when we considered moving to this region, Jamaica stood out because the BPO industry was already set up, growing and creating jobs. We saw the opportunity to address youth unemployment by offering training and facilitating job placement in the BPO sector, and it has been a great success," she said.

Rajeshwari explained that Avasant's pre-existing business relationship with JAMPRO, the national trade and investment promotion agency, also influenced the decision. She added that JAMPRO has since been an important partner, along with the University of Technology (UTech), Business Process Industry Association of Jamaica, and several individual BPO firms that have provided trainers and job opportunities. The United States Agency for International Development is also a key sponsor through its Fi Wi Jamaica Project.

Changing lives

Rajeshwari indicated that the initiative has grown significantly since it first started with a pilot programme for 30 students in 2015. She pointed out that it targets young men and women between the ages of 18 and 26 years old with socially and economically challenged backgrounds. They are given a daily stipend, textbooks and notebooks during the five-week course, which also has a site visit component to view the operations of a BPO firm first-hand.

"We teach them communication skills, customer service, how to be professional, and use of the technology. It gives them a very good orientation of the BPO sector and once they complete the programme, it really changes their lives. They can get a job and earn money to take care of themselves and their families," said Rajeshwari.

... Better opportunities

Dwight Gray, a 24-year-old resident of Montego Bay, St James, is one person whose life has been positively affected by the Avasant Digital Youth Employment Initiative.

Gray, a father of two who worked occasionally as a vendor over the past two years, disclosed that he could hardly make ends meet and wanted to explore better opportunities. After learning about the initiative, he signed up and was accepted in June of this year.

"I didn't know anything about the BPO industry in the beginning, but the training was very informative and hands-on. I learned a lot about what the industry expects of you and what you need to do to make a positive contribution," he said.

After he received his certificate for completing the five-week course in August, the Avasant Foundation assisted him with preparing and sending out his rÈsumÈ to prospective employees in the BPO sector. He noted that within a matter of days, he had his first interview.

"The interview went very well, and they actually asked me to start working the very next day. All the things that I did during the training with Avasant allowed me to make a very smooth transition to the job, and I have been doing very well. This opportunity has put me in a much better position than I was before and I am able to take care of my responsibilities," said Gray.

Chitra Rajeshwari, executive director of the Avasant Foundation, stated that Gray is just one of the many "deserving" young persons who have taken full advantage of the opportunity provided by the Avasant Digital Youth Employment Initiative.

Rajeshwari also indicated that the Avasant Foundation is looking at the possibility of expanding the initiative to include college graduates and training in areas such as robotics, artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things.

"Our ultimate goal is to stay here and make this a very sustainable process so that all these deserving youth have an opportunity to participate in the training programme and get employment in the BPO sector."


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