Can the BPO Industry Make a Tangible Difference to Unemployment?

Whilst countries such as Australia achieved their lowest unemployment rate in the past five decades at
just 3.5% in December 2022, the scourge of unemployment, particularly youth unemployment,
continues unabated in South Africa, which has the highest unemployment rate globally. Opportunities
for meaningful unemployment for women and people with disabilities are even more dismal and the
overall unemployment figure for the country in Q3 of 2022 was a staggering 32.9%.

According to Rajan Naidoo, Managing Director of EduPower Skills Academy, despite the government
spending millions on training and development through grant funding to try and close the skills gap, it is
not nearly enough, and they cannot do it alone. Couple that with South Africa’s rapidly declining
economy and our current growth outlook for 2023 forecasted by Bloomberg at a mere 0.3% quarter on
quarter, the chances of finding employment, even with accredited training, are minimal.

Is there a solution that can make an impact by creating more job opportunities? “Yes,” says Naidoo.
“Corporates make considerable investments annually in skills development as part of their social
responsibility and to maintain their BBBEE points, but they battle with delivery and providing sustainable
work opportunities. This is where Business Process Outsourcing (BPO)/Contact Centres, one of the few
growth sectors in South Africa, comes in and can play a significant role in creating a win-win solution for
all stakeholders,” he continues.

South Africa has become among the top-rated BPO emerging markets globally in recent years, its further
growth hampered only by the availability of youth with the requisite skills. In fact, based on the 2021
annual Front Office BPO Omnibus Survey by global firm Ryan Strategic Advisory, the country was ranked
first after three consecutive years in second place, as the most preferred offshore location for call
centres worldwide.

“Edupower focuses primarily on accredited skills development for the BPO sector and frees clients who
outsource their skills development to the company, of the burden of meeting their annual mandate
from government in terms of its administration and delivery. This then allows our clients to concentrate
on their core business,” explains Naidoo. “We offer twelve-month accredited learnership programmes
to develop relevant BPO technical skills, however, this is only part of the upskilling learners receive.
Through Edupower’s Mentorship programme, they are coached on soft skills that are key to the industry
such as communication and customer service, together with basic business skills that will prepare them
for the world of work.”

One of the difficulties faced by many learners upon completion of a learnership is that they lack work
experience, which is one of the most important criteria for prospective employers. Edupower has
overcome this obstacle by providing learners with “on-the-job” training, apart from classroom learning.
This is achieved by the Academy emulating a Contact Centre environment with learners being allocated
to live BPO campaigns for clients, in areas such as customer services and lead generation, under the

guidance and support of mentors. “This model allows our learners to not only gain real work experience
but to develop their self-confidence,” says Naidoo. “Furthermore, learners are taught and expected to
conform to the expected norms of a business environment at the Academy such as keeping business
hours, office etiquette etc. By providing them with accredited skills and work experience as part of a
robust Skills Development programme, many of our learners then feed into Contact Centres at clients
upon graduation or even start their own businesses and go on to employ others.”

Edupower is upbeat about the future opportunities for sustainable employment that can be created in
the BPO industry. They cite their latest project in the Northern Cape town of Kuruman, where together
with their mining client, they successfully created a Contact Centre to upskill 40 local people with
disabilities. “This is an example of what can be achieved when all stakeholders work together to
transform the lives of those who have lost all hope of employment. Business wins, government wins,
communities win but the biggest winners of all are our youth. That is Edupower’s vision and what drives
us in our desire to make a real difference in the lives of those who so desperately need it,” he concludes.

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