Despite the prevailing economic conditions and the somewhat gloomy forecast for the job market in the short term, there are some industries that still offer enormous opportunities for school leavers and candidates with some form of tertiary education.

Call centres form part of a growing industry locally and globally, says Nritika Singh, managing director of Isilumko Staffmg, a national company that recruits temporary, flexible and permanent staff.

According to the fifth Key Indicator Report by CallingtheCape — audited and co-produced by Deloitte— impressive growth figures of 39% for 2005, 41% for 2006 and 29% for 2007, have been recorded.

Callingthecape was established in 2002 as a public-private partner- ship to develop the contact centre and business process outsourcing and offshoring (BPO&O) industry.

From 2003 onwards there has been a sharp growth in the number of call centres offering outsourced customer contact services and telesales for the domestic and foreign markets.

Growth has been driven by the influx of new international operations and increasing demand for customer contact or call centres in South Africa.

Singh says the total number of call centre staff increased from 10014 in 2004 to 27819 in 2007/8.

“Entry level salaries of between R4 000 and R5 000 a month are attractive to people in positions that do not require a high level of skill. This excludes benefits such as medical aid, pension and provident fund or housing schemes.”

Although call centres may have a somewhat negative connotation, the industry has been quick to provide career guidance and ample opportunities for advancement.

For entry level agents, a grade 12 pass with no particular emphasis on choice of subjects Is required. However, above-average communication skills and a good grasp of language, especially English – the preferred medium in call centres – are important attributes and computer literacy is a major advantage.

Besides entry level agents or consultants, there are career opportunities for team leaders, supervisors, call centre managers, trainers and quality assessors.

At entry level, there are opportunities in telemarketing, customer service, help desk and collections.

“All these fields require personnel with different personality traits,” says Singh.

“Working in a call centre environment provides excellent opportunities for promotion to more senior positions. You can advance quite rapidly if you show promise and display certain skills.

“There is a shortage of management skills among black candidates. Internal appointments are common and, as an existing employee, you will be well positioned to follow a successful career in one of these call centre organisations.

“Some large financial institutions with call centres put all their new employees through call centre training as part of an induction process. “There has been no change in the industries employing the highest number of agents. Telecommunications remains the leading employer, followed by retail and fmancial services.”

Singh says Isilumko Staffing has branches in South Africa’s six largest cities, and has an upper tier BBBEE rating.

Isilumko legal and HR director Steve Katz says recruiters often make the mistake of recruiting primarily for skills and experience, which can often be taught and obtained.

He says the best way to recruit successfully is to recruit for attitude and that is what Isilumko’s recruitment process tests for.

“Unfortunately many interview guides do not have any questions that help to ascertain someone’s attitude.

“Our processes and measures ensure that the candidates we have available and supply to clients are as close a match to their requirements as possible.

“This applies particularly to the call centre industry where rapid growth has required positions to be filled on a regular basis,” says Katz.

Source: Cape Times – Career Choices – Sarah Jane-Bosch