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Investment Council discusses Investment Potentials and Concerns regarding the Quality of the Labour Market in the BPO Sector

Chaired by the Minister of Economic Development, Tourism, Trade and Entrepreneurship, Ms Milva Ekonomi, it was held the IC Meeting IX with agenda item “Investment Potentials and Challenges of the Labour Market in the BPO sector.” Present in the meeting were representatives of business associations, international organisations in Albania, as well as experts from AVASANT Company, contracted in the framework of a project funded by the Swiss Government.

In the opening of the meeting, Minister Ekonomi said that the issue of workforce availability has been raised in the previous IC meetings and analyses. “Therefore, to make it more understandable and to identify the problems faced, the IC Secretariat was assigned to do some observations with BPO businesses and provide some recommendations on the issue,” said Minister Ekonomi.

In the presentation delivered by AVASANT, it was highlighted the global trend of BPO industry, the positioning of Albania in the sector as well as the opportunities of the country to attract more BPO value-added services. According to the analysis, call centre companies have been attracted to Albania because of the cheap labour market and knowledge of foreign languages, but lately it is noticed a kind of diversification and sophistication of the business. Regarding a strategy for the sector, it was recommended to aim focusing in a small number of services such as digitalisation, translation and transactional services in the short and medium term with a perspective in the future to focus on knowledge-intensive services which offer the high-value proposition. To develop an industry such as the BPO, it is necessary to have in place a coordination mechanism and participation of many stakeholders. In its centre, it should be an implementing agency or government body supported by training institutions, bank institutions, etc.

IC Chair, Minister Ekonomi emphasised the need for continuous statistics regarding the availability of workforce in service sectors while the way that information is being collected by statistical entities in Albania needs to be strengthened and improved, especially in regards to building skills for the labour market

During January –February 2017, the Secretariat held meetings/interviews with around 33 stakeholders of the sector (businesses, associations, public institutions/agencies, etc.). In the meantime, the Secretariat launched a Survey on the problems of labour skills filled in by 17 BPO companies, representing a total of circa 10,000 employees. Ms Diana Leka, Head of the Secretariat, presented the main findings of the Secretariat, where it was noted an increase in the requests for services by Albania toward EU and the potential for investment in certain segments in the sector, which demand a high quality of human resources. Meanwhile, the education and training systems in place, lack elements of “serious” involvement of the business in curricula as well as in the monitoring of students’ practices, career offices or other projects.

Mr Genti Beqiri, AIDA, informed that during 2016, about 13% of the requests for investment have been submitted by the BPO sector. Since November 2016, there has been an interest shown by 6 foreign companies for services of the fourth generation (financial services, HR, etc.), where it is noted a diversification of the market. The sector shows a potential for investment because of the efficient labour force, good knowledge of foreign languages, and flexibility in training. Two issues are seen as positive: diversification of the origin of the companies and diversification of the services being offered by the BPO companies. In collaboration with RisiAlbania, the BPO portal is being built, however, it is necessary also to create an area to locate these businesses either in the aspect for the provision of services, but also to reduce informality.

Meanwhile, Mr Luan Bregasi, BiznesAlbania, commended the Minister and the IC Secretariat for bringing into the discussion such an important and urgent topic, and that the delivered analysis gave some indications of where to invest and what the entrepreneur should consider before investing. He said that the only thing that the entrepreneur does not take into account is labour market, and how capable it is to fulfil the needs of the business. Mr Bregasi mentioned that the strengthening of the vocational schools, internship projects and the law on the vocational training that will soon be passed in the Parliament, constitute some very positive steps for adapting to the needs of the labour market in Albania.

Mr Mark Crawford, President of American Chamber of Commerce said that the country is already attractive as the most cost effective destination and that the sector has grown, not necessarily through government support or specific incentives. “It is not only necessary for the state to say to investors to come, but rather to focus on maintaining the status of the cost-effective destination by being tax efficient, continue to streamline the regulations and more specifically to protect consumers from fraud,” said Mr Crawford.

Some of the main recommendations discussed in the meeting were: Strengthening of the Association (AOA) and its role in fighting informality; building partnership between the universities and private sector and Employment Offices through the strengthening of the role of the Career Offices in internships, practices and employment of students, early development of career counselling; support to the business initiatives for setting up vocational centres in technology and innovation (Digital Academy); making accurate the statistics on the contribution of the sector in economy; incentives on the training of certain professions; creating a web-based platform on the sector supported by AIDA – Business – Universities, to support the business in requests for staff, diploma thesis/project propositions to be implemented by the business, etc.

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