SA’s BPO sector prioritises skills development

SA’s BPO sector prioritises skills development

In September 2020, it was reported that South Africa’s business process outsourcing (BPO) sector is poised to create 775 000 new jobs by 2030. The sector performed exceptionally well during South Africa’s national lockdown in the beginning of the year, cementing South Africa’s position as the BPO delivery region of the future – for both local and international businesses. However, what’s most inspiring about the sector is the drive toward creating and maintaining a skilled talent pool – which will become increasingly important as we strive to create employment for South Africa’s youth.

The sector currently employs over 270 000 people in six cities, serving local and international clients alike. “The need for skills development to ensure the continued growth of the sector and the employment opportunities it presents cannot be underestimated – and industry players are rising to the occasion well,” says Mathew Conn, Group CRO at Merchants.

There are currently a number of initiatives underway through key industry bodies, the government and many of the country’s BPO providers, which are aimed at creating a highly skilled talent pool for the industry.

These include:

In November last year, a partnership between the government and the private sector saw the creation of a dedicated BPO Academy as the College of Cape Town’s Gardens Campus. This initiative aims to build a solid pipeline of talent for the sector and empower local youth with key skills. Stakeholders include the Western Cape Government, City of Cape Town, Cape BPO, TVET College and College of Cape Town.

This non-profit social enterprise looks to solve the youth unemployment challenge using data, innovation, partnerships and on-the-ground experience. Current partners include BPESA, TymeBank, FNB, Gauteng Provincial Government and Microsoft.

Powered by partners such as CCI, Telkom, MTN and Vodacom, this youth-focused programme aims to transform the lives of African youths and build African economies by offering world-class training and fast-tracking employment opportunities.

Powered by Merchants, this digital recruitment tool aims to build unique online profiles for job-seeking youth and match these profiles directly with businesses looking to hire. This value-based approach to hiring has resulted in increased performance, enhanced collaboration, improved morale and creation of a stable culture – a win-win for both employer and employee.

Merchants was also the first Southern Hemisphere based company (and fourth, globally) to be accredited with the Impact Sourcing Standard by the Global Impact Sourcing Coalition. In 2020 alone, 70% of new placements at Merchants were impact workers – and the business continues to focus on prioritising this in their recruitment processes.

Given its superior delivery capability, South Africa will become a strong focus for businesses looking to outsource. The country has also shown a stronger ability to develop operating models that provide continuity solutions to businesses, including Work from Home (WFH) models, increased office continuity and community-based operations, when compared to other BPO regions. Paired with the country’s drive for skills development within the sector, there is no doubt that South Africa is well positioned to become the BPO delivery region of the future.

“As we move forward as a sector, and look to power these 775 000 new jobs, we need to continue to work together to ensure we are not only creating skills but putting these to use. The skills we are developing are going to be shifting and changing rapidly as the country moves toward becoming more entrenched in the 4th industrial revolution. For the BPO sector this means increased use of technology like Artificial Intelligence, for example,” says Zain Patel, MD of Merchants. “As BPO providers, we should be looking to work closely with authorities such as MICTSETA in facilitating youth empowerment from grassroots level. This will become even more important as the sector continues to grow.”

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