The Global Services Sector (GSS) is estimated by the Services Global Market Report 2020-30 to become a US$14.7 trillion business worldwide by the end of 2023. To put this into perspective, the professional accounting firm PwC, in 2020, found that the sector represented around 23% of global exports. This speaks volumes about the future of trade and work, as well as the role that technology will play in our increasingly digitised world.

As the GSS grows, Jamaica is presented with the opportunity to be a part of one of the largest industries, which will become one of the most significant contributors to local GDP. The GSS currently generates over US$900 million in revenue per year, and employs over 56,000 Jamaicans, based on recent figures. As Jamaica continues to invest in its people through education and training, the country will attract more jobs and further capitalise on this rapidly growing sector, in which it is already the regional leader in the English-speaking Caribbean.

The GSS evolved out of the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) sector. Outsourcing is essentially the practice of hiring outside of a company to execute functions ordinarily handled by staff. It has become a popular way of cutting costs for many companies, and, as a result, has become a lucrative service for others to provide. Thanks to Jamaica’s robust telecommunications infrastructure and its near-shore advantage through proximity to the United States among other factors, the country has developed a proven track record with industry heavyweights such as Vistaprint, Hinduja Global Solutions (HGS) and Sutherland Global Services (SGS), as well as the homegrown ItelBPO.

In the case of the local BPOs, some of the common positions were call centre customer service agents, in addition to supervisory and managerial roles. Many more opportunities have arisen as the sector has developed and it now encompasses Knowledge Processing Outsourcing (KPO) and Information Technology Outsourcing (ITO), which demand higher valued skills. KPO and ITO include jobs in new emerging areas such as web development, digital marketing, data mining, financial analysis, contract management and cloud engineering. The Jamaican GSS, therefore, offers higher value-added services to a wide range of sectors: banking, retail, insurance, medicine and tourism in response to global demands.

The 2020 Global Outsourcing Survey has reinforced the importance of cost reduction and cloud solutions, which the Jamaican ICT sector has the necessary infrastructure to provide. Doing so represents a bold step in establishing Jamaica as a powerhouse in the GSS worldwide, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic that has made digital transformation critical as many companies transition more swiftly towards the projected future of work.

Numerous established global players in the GSS are currently operating in Jamaica, including six of the 20 top global BPO operators which have locations across the world that provide a wide range of BPO, KPO and ITO services. These outsourcing companies operating locally are shifting their focus to creating higher valued jobs, and have been working with the GSS Project to strengthen and create a consistent pipeline of skills/talent to support this focus. Jamaica has the necessary skills base available. Continuing to improve Jamaica’s skills base will drive growth and investment as the KPO and ITO offerings expand.

The Government of Jamaica has been actively improving the skills development system to provide the GSS with better skilled workers to fill emerging roles and to strengthen Jamaica’s capacity to attract investment. This includes identifying training needs, developing demand-driven, human-centric training programmes to meet these needs and forging partnerships with industry-led bodies such as the Global Services Sector Skills Council (GSSC). One such example is the GSS Apprenticeship Programme, which has trained 1,800 apprentices to fill mid-level management roles in Supervisory Management.

The public and private sectors have already been working together closely to realise the full potential of the GSS in Jamaica through the Global Services Association of Jamaica (GSAJ) and the GSSC. These industry-led bodies have recently endorsed an industry skills upgrade strategy which will support the shift of the market share from 20% KPO to 40%. As a result of this strategy, the GSSC has also endorsed a Leadership & Management Apprenticeship Programme for 2022, and a strategic roadmap to guide the build-out of the industry. This work is beginning to yield results and Jamaica will continue to reinforce its position globally as a strong near-shore destination for higher value-added services in the GSS.

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A 5-year project funded by the Inter-American Development Bank that will provide Jamaicans with access to training and better jobs in the global services sector, namely in knowledge process outsourcing, information technology outsourcing and business process outsourcing.

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