Answering the call for new workers: Call centre technology has Trinidad's number
Trinidad and Tobago has ambitious plans to diversify away from oil and gas, the industry that has propelled the nation to developed economy status in less than 20 years.
A new survey cited by invesTT provides a welcomed boost to the country’s efforts to attract knowledge-based operations and business process outsourcing (BPO) in particular.
The country is well-prepared for call centre operations, according to independent market research by Hire Point Marketing, invesTT reports in its July newsletter.
The blind survey of potential employees tested their readiness for call centre work, their skills, clarity of speaking English and speed when responding.
Trinidad and Tobago participants in the survey scored 20 and 30 percent higher than their Latin American and Filipino counterparts, respectively.
The results are especially impressive considering that the Philippines is one of the world’s most established BPO centres, along with India.
As the investment promotion agency, invesTT has identified information and communications technology (ICT) as one of five key sectors suited to foreign investment in the country, and they've been ratcheting up efforts to promote such opportunities and assist companies in moving here.
The country is suited to the offshore outsourcing of both back-office functions such as finance, accounting, treasury, taxes and human resources, and administration and front-office call centres.
Trinidadian education and labour skills are among the best in the Caribbean
96 percent of those surveyed by Hire Point Marketing have at least a high school education, 25 percent hold a bachelor’s degree and 27 percent have had a vocational and technical education. The University of Trinidad and Tobago and the University of the West Indies produce more than 400 ICT graduates a year. Factor in other smaller educational facilities and the country produces more than 7,000 graduates a year, many in technological and scientific fields.
Trinidadians have one of the highest literacy rates in the Caribbean, 98 percent, providing a rich pool of potential workers suited to call centre operations. The population also has a rich cultural mix and language skills with a heritage that includes Indian, African, Spanish, Portuguese, Lebanese and Chinese descendents.
High unemployment in the target group indicates readily available candidates willing to work in call centre environments. In addition, the wage expectations among these candidates are comparable to regional competitors.
The BPO sector remains relatively nascent in Trinidad and Tobago, meaning that early foreign entrants will have the pick of this skilled and educated workforce.
Trinidad’s ICT infrastructure compares favourably in global terms
Trinidad and Tobago ranks 60th out of 142 countries in the World Economic Forum’s 2012 Networked Readiness Index (NRI), which ranks nations’ ICT capabilities based on their network environment, readiness and usage. The results place Trinidad and Tobago in the world’s top 50 percent and it beats most other Caribbean and Latin American countries.
Perhaps surprisingly, Trinidad and Tobago also beats the world’s most established BPO centres in networked readiness, India (ranked 69th) and the Philippines (ranked 86th).
The country has well-established IT infrastructure and a population at ease with technology. Around three-quarters of respondents in the Hire Point Marketing survey have had eight or more years’ experience using the Internet and are proficient in using software packages such as Microsoft Office.
Tamana InTech Park will be the Largest Science and Technology Park in the Caribbean
Trinidad is looking to bolster its ICT advantage by creating the country’s first science and technology park, the largest in the Caribbean.
The 1,100-acre Tamana InTech Park is located on a former U.S. Air Force base and will bring together knowledge-based business and academic institutions to provide a regional competitive advantage to foreign investors setting up here.
The park will provide access to advanced ICT infrastructure and security services and access to Trinidad’s ICT educated workforce. The University of Trinidad and Tobago will have a new campus in Tamana to create synergies with high- value enterprises.
The park’s fibre-based infrastructure has been designed to facilitate the high quality services required by BPO companies. Its dedicated electricity substation will provide a stable power supply and it will offer ready access to a sophisticated national telecommunications infrastructure, which is based on a next-generation network architecture to provide reliable services. Seamless access to the rest of the world is also provided through the international fibre cables that link the country to North and South America.
invesTT is also committed to increasing linkages between business and local research institutes, including the University of Trinidad and Tobago, the University of the West Indies, the Caribbean Industrial Research Institute, the National Institute of Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology and the Policy Research and Development Unit.