By Karen Flores
May 11,2009 2:31 AM
More jobs just keep on coming to the Philippines this year as business process outsourcing (BPO) firms continue to expand their operations in the country amid the economic crunch.
Industry group Business Process Association of the Philippines (BPAP) said the outlook remains positive for the Philippines as members expect a 200 percent growth in employment this year. The growth will come from both existing and new players.
Leading outsourcing firm Convergys, for instance, is on a roll with its expansion plans for the country this year, opening three new contact center facilities in Cebu, Quezon City, and Laguna last month.
The new centers added some 2,900 jobs to the country's workforce, bringing Convergys' total headcount to 16,000.
To further increase the size of its already huge workforce, Convergys Senior Vice President for Human Resources Clark Handy said the company has been offering a two-day Oral Communications in English Program for teachers.
He added that Convergys has been working with the local government to ensure the availability of top talent for their business.
"We believe this initiative will directly impact the future success of the BPO industry and ensure an English proficient talent pool for our future growth and for the country's global competitiveness," he said in an interview last month.
On the other hand, BPO company Affiliated Computer Services Inc. (ACS) is also planning to add 2,000 more seats in the next six months as it continues to strengthen its presence in the country through its offices in Makati, Pasay, and Cebu.
"We are very excited about prospects in the Philippines," ACS Executive Vice President Ann Vezina said. The Philippines is the second largest offshore facility of ACS with some 3,000 employees, led only by India with 5,000 seats.
Around 70 percent of ACS's operations is based in the United States, with the remaining 30 percent offshore. Vezina said the company is aiming to reverse the ratio in the coming months, which may translate to even more job opportunities for the country.
The market is also faced with new entrants this year as HP Outsourcing Philippines Inc. and Thomson Reuters Legal have recently expressed their interest to put up facilities in the country for their respective businesses.
HP Outsourcing Philippines, a subsidiary of the Hubport Group, recently signed a memorandum of agreement with the Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology (MSU-IIT), a university known for its information technology and engineering programs, allowing the BPO firm to put up its office there.
The 24-hour facility will serve two functions: as a remote office for Hubport's commercial operations, and as a virtual computer laboratory for the on-the-job training of MSU-IIT students on web design, animation, transcription services, and other skills. Students who are part of the program have higher chances of employment at Hubport.
Leading data provider Thomson Reuters, on the other hand, will be putting up its first facility in the Philippines that is devoted exclusively for their legal content business. Despite this, the company has been in the country for 63 years, with its operations including customer support and content operations, among many others.
In a press briefing last month, Thomson Reuters Legal said the type of work planned for the Manila facility would involve document receipt, copy preparation, conversion of source documents, application of coding to documents, and data load support.
There has been no specific timetable yet for Thomson Reuters Legal's operations in the country, although company officials said they are hoping to start operating in the Philippines before the year ends. They are also considering McKinley Hill at the Bonifacio Global City in Taguig as a site for their facility.
The economic crisis has forced most companies to cut down on production costs such as manpower and rentals to survive, making them move some of their businesses offshore.
This has greatly benefited the Philippines as the BPO industry served as a sponge for the surplus of graduates that other sectors could no longer absorb.
A recent survey conducted by the Business Process Association of the Philippines (BPAP) revealed that 95 percent of BPO executives and human resource managers had a positive outlook for job growth for the industry in 2009. Specifically, industry players are expecting a 200-percent growth in employment this year.
"With at least 97 percent of surveyed companies providing moderate to high-value services, and 95 percent expecting employment growth, the question for the industry whether current academic standards and curricula are aligned with the increasingly complex requirements of the BPO industry," BPAP Research Director Gigi Virata said.
The biggest growth is expected from companies that employ 5,000 to 10,000 personnel, with 33 percent expecting jobs to grow between 11 percent and 15 percent in 2009, the survey said.
The Philippines, with its low labor costs, right skill sets, proficiency in English, and cultural and social affinity with the United States, has become an attractive site for outsourcing operations.
But above all these, industry players cited the availability of high-quality talent in the Philippines, making the country an ideal location for their businesses. Specifically, BPO companies saw managerial talent and leadership skills in Filipinos, giving them an edge over other countries.
"The talent of the people, education, fluency in English, work ethic, young and dynamic workforce, I could go on and on. [The Philippines] is a very special place," said Fred Gordon, Vice President for Content Operations of Thomson Reuters Legal, told reporters last month.
Convergys Senior Vice President for Human Resources Clark Handy added: "Employees who are well-educated, English-proficient, and have a strong understanding of US culture are the keys to Convergys' success."
For her part, Vezina said the Philippines has a lot of talent that gives them the complexity that they need given the diverse business portfolio of ACS. "We see the Philippines as having more than just voice," she said, adding that Filipinos also deliver well in terms of total benefits outsourcing, finance and accounting, and human resources.