Manila Standard Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge)FEWER than three of every 100 new college graduates are hired in call centers and other business process outsourcing (BPO) companies every year due to their failure to pass competitive qualifying exams.
Industry data showed that of the 400,000 new graduates who look for work annually, only 11,526 or 2.89 percent are accepted in BPO companies and call centers.
This has raised concern that the Philippines will be unable to sustain the growth of the $10 billion sector because of the lack of qualified workers.
"Most fail because they fail to understand the requirement of global job interviews, testing and process. Secondly, the spoken English becomes a challenge, in terms of conversational fluency, tone and accent," said Jim Santiago, president and CEO of the John F. Kennedy Center Foundation-Philippines.
Unless the hiring rate in BPO companies and call centers improves soon, Santiago warned that the Philippines will be unable to sustain the boom in outsourced services and lose its competitiveness to other Asian countries.
The solution is to prepare fresh graduates for a job in a BPO company or call center by providing them quality training that will significantly increase their chances of getting hired, he said.
"The spoken English can be cured over a relatively short period of time. The workforce needs a bit more seasoning in English but they are trainable and very literate, possess excellent domain knowledge and superior work ethics," he added.
Training programs conducted by JFK Center Foundation showed that an 80-hour training period distributed over 30 days can increase the average hiring rate of BPO firms and call centers from 2.89 percent to as high as 53 percent.
He said the hiring rate improved as the training prepared the students in terms of English proficiency, accent reduction, problem solving, analytical skills, decision making and execution, and customer satisfaction and experience.
At present, JFK Center Foundation is working with universities and colleges to develop their curriculum for one-year, two-year, four-year and even MBA programs in BPO and Contact Center Entrepreneurship and Management.
The JFK Foundation has already started working with local government institutions and state and private universities.
Meanwhile, JFK Center Foundation and American solutions provider Five9 recently tied up to ensure the steady growth of the information technology sector in the Philippines by developing a cottage call center industry.
Five9 is an international call center solutions provider that has chosen the Philippines as the site of its regional headquarters in Southeast Asia. In 2005, the company introduced Virtual Contact Center, which allows small organizations to start a call center with minimal capital.
The new partnership seeks to assist the development of 400 to 500 small to medium-scale companies in the provinces that will generate around 88,000 jobs.
"Our goal is to promote the Philippines aggressively as the premier choice for the global customer care capital of the world," Santiago said.
"With the development of low-cost and state-of-the-art technology such as Five9, we will be able to help differentiate Filipino BPO centers with higher skills, excellent or superior customer satisfaction and customer experience, high velocity delivery, and specialized value and increased knowledge," Santiago said.
He said that new low-cost technology would enable BPO industry to create another 90,000 jobs over the next three years to the 100,000 already in place and expand the business by $5 billion.