6/14/16 – This guest post is written by team CaribSource, who are working in the Caribbean to find solutions to the high rates of youth unemployment in the region. They are conducting primary research in St. Lucia, Jamaica, and Trinidad & Tobago this summer as part of their venture practicum for the Global Social and Sustainable Enterprise MBA program.
“Find out where the excitement is. What keeps people up at night?”
-Dr. Christopher Blocker, Assistant Professor of Marketing at CSU
The Caribbean Investment Summit in Miami on May 13, 2016 marked the launch of our summer practicum. Investment promotion agencies representing the 25 Caribbean island countries and Belize pitched sandy beaches, sunshine, favorable tax environments and an educated, multilingual workforce to deep pocketed investors. We gathered stacks of business cards, refined our pitch and shook a lot of hands; but just as important to growing our venture’s network, we also confirmed that our proposed venture industry – business process outsourcing (BPO) in the Caribbean – is set to grow. This is good news as we launch our summer goals:
- identify potential customer segments in three different US cities,
- prototype potential work tasks with our intended beneficiaries, (unemployed youth), in Saint Lucia, and
- conduct primary research of successful BPO models in Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago.
Our progress thus far: We arrived in Jamaica on May 15, 2016, where we were welcomed by the blistering Caribbean summer heat. While there, we were greatly assisted by the Jamaican investment promotion agency, JamPro, whose assistant director we had met at the summit. They were instrumental in helping us set meetings with various organizations and stakeholders that were meaningful to our research, such as the most well-known Jamaican youth NGO, YUTE, and a local BPO provider, HGS. We also met with Dr. Knlfe, the Caribbean intellectual leader in social enterprise, as well as with career specialists at the two major universities in Jamaica. Last, but certainly not least, we were able to speak with a number of youth to find out how they felt about the issues they were faced with.
What we found in Jamaica was truly fascinating. Jamaica has been able to successfully position itself as the regional leader in all things BPO. By combining their very well-educated and English speaking labor force with the government’s significant focus in the development of the BPO sector, Jamaica has attracted a wide array of organizations looking to take advantage of what the island has to offer. Most notably, we met with VistaPrint Jamaica, a company of about 1000 employees that provides all of VistaPrint’s English voice services in a Google-esque setting complete with an on-site videogame room and gym. They have been operating in Jamaica for over 12 years and lauded the high caliber of work they receive from the Jamaican workforce.
We left Jamaica filled with excitement, got to St. Lucia on May 22nd, and were surprised to find the country in the midst of unplanned political elections, which disrupted meetings we had planned with government officials. We were, however, able to meet with the Springboard Training Academy, the Minister of Commerce, and a few youth leadership groups who have given us a bit of a pulse on the youth environment on the island. We were pleased to learn that St. Lucia as a whole seems to have many of the same characteristics that make Jamaica so competitive, and that the few that are missing are currently being developed.
Over the coming weeks, we will be conducting youth workshops during which we will combine quantitative and qualitative data collection methods in order to get a clear and concrete understanding of the youth perspective and create a “youth profile.” Watch for an update here regarding these outcomes, and the other exciting discoveries made under the Caribbean sun in this promising region.
This is great news. SImilar to the Philippine experience, the BPO industry created a burgeoning middle class from the employment it generated in the country. Today, the BPO is poised to generate additional 500,000 jobs outside the capital city of Manila. I hope this also happens in Jamaica.