ST JAMES, Jamaica (JIS) — Prime Minister Andrew Holness, says the labour force needs to keep pace with the growing business process outsourcing (BPO) sector, noting that there are not enough qualified persons to fill jobs.
“We have to address the binding constraint of the growth of the BPO sector… and that is the labour force,” Holness said, while addressing stakeholders and business interests at itelbpo's grand opening of its facility in Freeport, St James, on Wednesday.
The prime minister said the country has not been able, so far, “to provide the human resources, the trained workforce, to keep pace with the demand for the services here in Jamaica”.
Holness pointed out that when he was minister of edducation, it was assessed that one in 10 persons interviewed would have been qualified to work, and he suspects it is still about one in 10 or one in nine. “We need to do far more than we are doing now,” he said.
The prime minister said he has personally taken issue with the situation, so much so that he has created the Housing, Opportunity, Production and Employment (HOPE) programme to provide educational and job opportunities for young persons, aged 19 to 24 years, who are not employed or enrolled in school or any programme of training.
He also noted that the HEART Trust/NTA will create a universal system of institutional attachment for the target age cohort.
“We are getting our young people work-ready at an accelerated pace. Very soon, we will have a supply of work-ready persons to be employed in your operations,” Holness said.
The prime minister added that the HOPE programme was specifically designed to deal with the knowledge, skills and attitude model and to “get our young people to develop their skills and, most importantly, adjust their attitude so they can be in a frame of mind to work”.
“We also want to have them in a frame of mind to be productive, and which is why I am giving my commitment to this industry. This is an industry that we know is critical to Jamaica's growth and development,” Holness added.
The prime minister further noted that the BPO sector has the potential to have a huge impact on youth unemployment in Jamaica, pointing out that it will also inevitably lead to crime reduction.
Holness said he is predicting that by next year, the BPO sector will have an additional 1.3 million square feet, while conservatively adding another 25,000 new jobs.
“The Government is committed to making this happen. We are so committed that we are building space, through the Port Authority of Jamaica (PAJ) and also through the Factories Corporation of Jamaica (FCJ),” Holness said.