Labor and Employment Secretary Patricia A. Sto. Tomas sees bright prospects in employment in 2006 with the call center industry expected to expand and generate more jobs for the Filipino workers.

In a radio interview, Sto. Tomas said positive developments locally and overseas indicate that the demand for skilled Filipino workers would be sustained this year.

She said that in the local industry, the highest number of jobs being recorded is in the call center area. She disclosed that at the start of the year, the DOLE has received a request for about 7,500 people to man call center seats.

The past years saw an unprecedented growth in call center jobs as more and more business process outsourcing firms set up their operations in the Philippines each year. The Bureau of Investments estimated that there are now about112,000 people working in call centers in the country which brought in more than $1 billion in revenues in 2005. This was a sharp increase from 2000 when call centers employed just 2,400 people and earned only $24 million.

In the next four years, the country is targeting to capture about five percent of the global business process outsourcing amounting to as much as $10 billion.

Sto. Tomas, however, said that there have been difficulties in filling up call center seats because the number of English language proficient workers in the country is waning. Out of every 100 applicants, she said that only about five to 10 people are accepted, indicating an acceptance rate of only 5 to 10 percent.

The DOLE chief said that part of the problem could be a cultural thing. “I think we have people who do fairly well in written English but not very well in conversational English. Filipinos have the tendency not to correct wrong use of English in conversation as this would embarrass people,” she said.

To address the problem and, thus, sustain the competitiveness of the country’s call center industry, Sto. Tomas said that the DOLE and its attached agency, the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), would meet with the Department of Education and the Commission on Higher Education next month.

The objective of the inter-agency meeting, she said, is to come up with a plan of action that would enable more Filipino workers to meet the call centers’ urgent need for language proficient staff.

Sto. Tomas also said that the demand for technical and vocational jobs would be sustained. Aside from call center positions, the other jobs that are in great demand are technical-vocational jobs such as automotive painters, mechanics, electricians, and technicians, she said.

Overseas, Sto. Tomas said that there is a continuing demand for nurses, seafarers, engineers, waiters and other hotel and restaurant positions, and technical and vocational workers as well.

source: Information and Publication Service

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