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GBPA/ ItelBPO Partnership Building Freeport’s ICT Industry

As the new school year gets underway in a few days, hundreds of 12th graders on Grand Bahama will have fresh opportunities to effectively prepare themselves for either higher education, or post-graduation employment opportunities; owing to a new skills based training initiative created to support Grand Bahama’s recently established Call Center Industry. 

In May of this year, officials of The Grand Bahama Port Authority, Limited (GBPA) and Island Outsourcers/itelBPO Solutions, partnered to develop and introduce the Contact Center Education Initiative (CCEI). The program is geared toward equipping graduates with meaningful results, driven by enhanced employability skills to support the island’s Contact Center sector, but will also prove as an asset to every local employer.

“Several years ago, GBPA commissioned a detailed Contact Center feasibility study to determine Grand Bahama’s viability as a nearshore call center destination. Following extremely favorable feedback, we then identified the industry as a ‘low lying fruit’ for Freeport; one that could quickly be developed, given the city’s infrastructure, literacy and language skills,  as well as other factors,” explained Ian Rolle, GBPA President. 

“Since then, we have attracted Island Outsourcers/itelBPO Solutions, our first contact center operator, with primary facilities based in Jamaica. To-date, GBPA has worked diligently, both independently and in partnership with itelBPO to promote and grow this new industry. Further, we are confident that through the CCEI we are positioning Grand Bahama to experience significant future growth by virtue of human capital development, and the creation of a self-replenishing labor pool.” Rolle added. 

The duo partnership of GBPA/itelBPO Solution officially launched the CCEI program with Principals, Administrators and Teachers of all Grand Bahama high schools on Wednesday, 24th August, at the Pelican Bay Resort. This Train-the-Trainer program is said, will equip facilitators with essential technical, management and reporting tools to ensure the program’s success. 

According to Sr. Manager of Business Development & Invest Grand Bahama, the attraction of Grand Bahama’s first Contact Center Operator is a significant leap forward for both the island and the country, in terms of diversifying its economy. 

“For decades the need for a more diversified economy that is less reliant on conventional tourism has been echoed. The presence of itelBPO on Grand Bahama represents a significant step in the right direction; one that positions us to build a thriving Information and communications technology sector, while helping to provide sustainable employment.”

“A number of neighboring jurisdictions are benefiting greatly from this sector. And to give you a greater appreciation for the impact it can have on our economy; the number of people working within the Caribbean call center industry in 2002 stood at 11,300. Fourteen years later, that number has increased to almost 100,000 people; an increase of 785% or an annual average increase in employment of 56%, which translates to an annual economic impact well in excess of $2.5 billion. In fact, Jamaica is anticipating an increase of 15,000 new jobs in the sector by 2020, improving employment numbers in the industry to 30,000 people.  Based on current industry trends, we believe that we can develop a few niche markets in the sector and create new and exciting employment opportunities for Bahamians.” Cited Newbold.

Local high schools have already tabled the program into their academic curriculum and will begin training as early as mid-September. Students will be trained in key soft skill areas, including leadership, customer service, written and verbal communication, problem solving, motivation, interpersonal skills and creativity.  Upon completion of the program, graduating seniors will be certified and eligible for entry level positions within the contact centre industry.

Program moderator and Training & Development Officer for Island Outsourcers, Ms. Trika Mullings, says they are excited and very pleased with how the program has been received by the local schools. 

“Success is preparation meeting opportunity, and the CCEI is ensuring we are prepared to successfully capitalize on the opportunities as they arrive in Grand Bahama. I’m very excited to be a part of such an impactful and forward thinking initiative,” cited Mullings.

Project coordinator and Business Development Officer for GBPA, Mrs. Glendia Sweeting notes that the CCEI perfectly complements the Port’s efforts in promoting the ICT industry  to attract new players. 

“This initiative significantly supports GBPA’s efforts in promoting Grand Bahama as a nearshore ICT alternative.  Freeport has a robust, stable telecommunications infrastructure, the appropriate physical facilities, and other essential amenities which lends itself well to the US market,” Sweeting expressed.  “The CCEI enhances our value proposition by creating a self-replenishing labor pool for the industry and make us more attractive as a prime destination, to easily facilitate offshore contact center/customer service operations for North American clients.”

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The Hawksbill Creek Agreement (HCA) gave GBPA responsibility for the development, administration and management, and provision of services within an area called the 'Port Area' (230 sq. miles). GBPA was mandated by this Agreement to build a deep water harbour, an industrial community and required infrastructure for the City.

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