It is not often that one comes across an industry that constantly self-introspects for growth; that recognizing that it is evolving, seeks to have a clear vision of where it is going. The growth of a sector, in most cases, is seen to be the responsibility of governments. But in reality, it depends on the ecosystem in which it operates. Interesting results are obtained when a country has a coordinated and progressive private sector body that demands accountability and a proper investment ecosystem from government. And the results are more refreshing when it also takes an active role in the growth of a sector and takes the lead in chartering its growth strategy.
What is the link between skills development and industry growth?
Shifting skill priorities, as evidenced by the , underscore the increasing importance of critical thinking and analysis and the shift towards knowledge-based skills. Furthermore, a new report by McKinsey shows that skill building is becoming common practice, social and emotional skills are in demand, and there’s a recipe for successful skill transformations. Countries that take time to proactively build their talent pool in anticipation of future needs increase their capacity to compete globally. Acknowledging this opportunity, Jamaica’s Global Services Sector (GSS) has been undergoing a profound change towards what we call a Global Solutions Sector, integrating several activities that previously were developed by sectors such as consulting and technology.
Jamaica’s GSS is an industry that realized how important it was to have a clear vision as to “where” it was going and how this information could be used to empower its employees and guide aspiring workers. As of 2019, Jamaica’s GSS focused 80% in Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) and 20% in Knowledge Process Outsourcing (KPO). With support from the IDB, it now seeks to make a pivot to higher value services towards a 60% BPO and increase KPO to 40% by 2023; recognizing that there are opportunities to be gained in these segments which could lead to increased foreign direct investment.
The evolution of the GSS in Jamaica requires firms to have a range of knowledge areas and skills in their arsenal when pitching to clients seeking integrated solutions and agile approaches- such as quickly reskilling or upskilling to meet new areas of focus. With this in mind, the industry is working to facilitate the upskilling of some 1,100 apprentices and the reskilling of 9,000 persons to better serve the sector in these new skills and knowledge areas. This reflects the move towards an expertise-value-based business in which the vendor is expected to provide the best solution design; provide the expected outcomes for the client; and deploy the service with maximum efficiency.
Strengthening Jamaica’s position as a nearshore destination
As stated in the Vision 2025 of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), nearshoring can deliver new opportunities for investment in Latin America and the Caribbean. And this is exactly what Jamaica is doing with IDB support: working with its partners – JAMPRO and Global Services Association of Jamaica (GSAJ), the Global Services Skills Council (GSSC) is building on the country’s well-reputed position as a “nearshore destination in BPO” and expanding its value proposition into higher value-added segments.
Through the GSSC, the industry has “doubled down” to proactively prepare its talent pool to respond more effectively to global demands. The GSSC endorsed the skills and knowledge areas proposed by the Industry Skills Upgrade Strategy, which signals the key areas of focus for the GSS to stay on track in its ongoing evolution. It has identified seven key knowledge and skills areas that the industry must embrace if it is to move into higher value-added segments: Management and Leadership; IT infrastructure (such as cloud computing and cybersecurity); Communication; Digital Marketing; Software Development and Integration (including web/app development and augmented and virtual reality); Critical and Analytical Thinking; and Human-Centered & Interaction Design.
Evolution in the GSS is not optional, and Jamaica’s industry is cognizant of such reality. It understands the importance of having a clear vision and guiding its employees and aspiring workers on what the industry is seeking. Also, of equal importance is the need for training institutions to understand the global trends and to tailor their training offerings accordingly. In ensuring that employees are advised on the opportunities for vertical or horizontal movement, the GSSC endorsed the Career Pathway Framework to enable persons to take ownership of their careerpaths in four main tracks which make up the GSS: i) BPO, ii) KPO, iii) ITO and iv) Digital Services, which falls under ITO.
Workers at the core of the evolution
Jamaica remains one of the strongest nearshore destinations for BPO as it pivots to establish itself as a strong higher value-added destination both at the regional and global levels. The industry skills upgrade strategy provides a clear direction on how to achieve this strategic stage, and a platform has been built out to enable the industry evolution with an approach that places workers at the core of the evolution and enables them to build careers. By developing this human-centered mechanism, the GSS Project delivers on its mandate to strengthen the talent pool to support the evolution of the GSS in Jamaica.