Work opportunities open up as Cali strengthens bilingualism
• Local institutions and TaskUs join forces to promote bilingualism and improve employability.
English is opening up employment opportunities in Cali as business process outsourcing (BPO) gains ground in Colombia. The country itself has captured about 13.1 percent of BPO sales in the region, according to market research firm Frost & Sullivan . With bilingualism being a valued skill in the industry, various institutions in Cali—from the public, private, academic, and social sectors—have come together to create programs that help strengthen the English skills of the city’s highly educated and talented workforce, especially the youth.
TaskUs, Inc. (NASDAQ: TASK), a global outsourcing company that started operations in Cali last March 2021, has employed young Caleños who have recently improved their English proficiency thanks to free programs such as the Cali Open To Work program, a joint project led by the Cali Secretary of Economic Development and Comfenalco Valle Delagente and The Art of Fluency: The TaskUs Language Academy.
In partnership with Invest Pacific and the city government, the Art of Fluency program is designed to help improve English proficiency for those who wish to enter the customer service and care industry. The lessons focus on two aspects of communication: technical skills including vocabulary and pronunciation, and conversational skills such as active listening and establishing trust and empathy. The program is held virtually to ensure the health and safety of participants.
“Many Caleños have great potential to achieve their best with companies that have a global reach,” said Guillermo Ulloa, TaskUs Vice President of Operations in Colombia. “The TaskUs Language Academy is our way of unlocking the talents of our own people, providing them with an opportunity to grow personally and professionally while contributing to the economic development of our city.”
Like the Art of Fluency, Cali Open to Work aims to equip participants with job skills through programs such as English proficiency training so they gain access to work.
“Bilingualism has an importance that is highly noticeable and relevant within the labor context, which is why it becomes a great opportunity to mitigate unemployment in our region,” said Felice Grimoldi Rebolledo, General Director of Comfenalco Valle Delagente. “Through education and better English skills, people can have access to well-paying jobs, including in the BPO industry, which is growing rapidly in Valle del Cauca. I am hopeful that the industry will quickly absorb our skilled workforce, especially the youth and women.”
Work opportunities through English skills
These initiatives have helped many Caleños start a career in the BPO industry. This is the case for Kevin Sánchez, a participant in the Cali Open To Work program, and Ariakna Ardila, a graduate of the TaskUs Language Academy.
Sánchez had been struggling to find work. He had faced rejection from local companies and even found himself homeless for a period of time. But despite these challenges, he never gave up. Improving his English proficiency boosted his employability. Through self-study and the Cali Open to Work program, Kevin was able to find a job opportunity at TaskUs.
Like Sánchez, Ardila struggled to find work. She already had a background in English, learning the language since the age of seven through books, movies, and music. She also earned a certification for English level B1 (intermediate) during her time in university.
Ardila had no BPO experience but was interested in applying at TaskUs when she heard about its company culture and benefits. While she did not initially meet the required proficiency level, the TaskUs Recruitment team saw her potential and invited her to attend the TaskUs Language Academy for free. Today, Ardila is a proud TaskUs teammate after acing her second application.
Firm steps in bilingual training
According to data consolidated by Invest Pacific, the percentage of Caleños with B1 level English or higher has grown in the last decade, going from 4% of high school graduates in 2009 to almost 15% in 2019. This means that the city has an annual output of almost 4,000 bilingual speakers. It is also estimated that over 7,000 or 36% of bilingual high school graduates in 2019 had an English proficiency level of B1 or higher.
“English is a valuable skill that companies demand more and more, especially those in the services and new technology industries, since it is a differentiating factor to get more companies interested in our region.” said Alejandro Ossa, Executive Director of Invest Pacific. “It is important to continue strengthening these public-private partnerships, together with academia, to improve bilingual skills and employability, even more so when we see companies like TaskUs contributing to create job opportunities with exceptional benefits and generating a highly positive impact in the lives and families of hundreds of young people from Cali who speak English.”
In addition to the growing interest of bilingual contact center companies in developing their operations in the region, different institutions are taking the lead in promoting English proficiency and ensuring the city improves its bilingualism rates.
Hello Valle! is one such initiative. A project by the Comfandi and Comfenalco Valle Delagente Family Compensation Funds, together with Invest Pacific and ProPacífico, this program aims to contribute and respond to the needs of human talent, mainly in the BPO sector. In the first year of the program, it is expected to reach 1,000 beneficiaries. Guided autonomous work, interaction with other participants, virtuality, and presence are part of the methodology that will be implemented to teach the English language.
Another is the English for Contact Centers program, promoted by the Javeriana University, ProPacífico, and Invest Pacific within the framework of the Compromiso Valle’s program initiatives. The alliance has already helped 26 participants from youth to adults in raising their English level from B1 to B2, with several of them now employed.
The Valle del Cauca sectional SENA is also leading another of these programs, focusing on the comprehensive formation of a Bilingual Omnichannel Contact Center as a BPO shared services model with 4.0 technology.
Similarly, Amcham Suroccidente, together with the Warren Buffett Foundation, plans to benefit 550 citizens in 2022 with free bilingual training that will be subsidized for students.
“Bilingualism is a priority. A wave of investments has been developing in the city through companies that provide outsourced services in English, specifically BPO companies, which undoubtedly offer the most opportunities for employment,” said Liliana Sierra, Secretary of Economic Development of the Mayor’s Office in Cali.
Sierra added, “The Mayor’s Office of Santiago de Cali has supported the generation of skills in English for job seekers in the city. The commitment will continue so that companies like TaskUs have a strategic ally in the district administration to boost their growth. At the end of 2021, nearly 500 people applied for our program, strengthening their command of English as a second language. Of which, more than 20% found jobs in the same year. The rest have participated in selection processes that continue to deliver results. Without a doubt, we cannot stop supporting the initiatives that promote the development of Cali and the region.”
To learn more about TaskUs, visit https://www.taskus.com or follow these social media accounts:
TaskUs (Nasdaq: TASK) is a provider of outsourced digital services and next-generation customer experience to innovative and disruptive technology companies, helping its clients represent, protect and grow their brands. Leveraging a cloud-based infrastructure, TaskUs serves clients in the fastest-growing sectors, including social media, e-commerce, gaming, streaming media, food delivery and ridesharing, HiTech, FinTech, and HealthTech. As of September 30, 2021, TaskUs had approximately 35,600 employees across twenty locations in the United States, the Philippines, India, Mexico, Taiwan, Greece, Ireland, and Colombia.