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CCI changes 200,000 lives in SA

Business Process Outsourcing skills can help combat youth unemployment – and is already having a massive impact, writes ANGELIQUE MOGOTLANE.

Contract centres can help reduce youth unemployment in South Africa, says leading business processing outsourcing (BPO) company Contact Centre International (CCI).

It has joined forces with non-profit organisation CareerBox to recruit, train, and place people in the BPO industry.

CareerBox, which was founded in 2013, is focused on recruiting talented underprivileged youth and women to equip them with high-demand skills before placing them in the industry. CCI and CareerBox are collaborating to combat South Africa’s high youth unemployment rate. Together, they are training young individuals from diverse communities across the country, equipping them with the necessary skills for entry-level, digitally empowered positions.

Peter Andrew, CEO of CCI South Africa

“We follow a request-for-proposal process that determines when we are hiring, when we are training, and when we go live,” said Peter Andrew, CEO of CCI South Africa, during a media tour of CareerBox’s operation in Durban last week. “Candidates who successfully navigate the interview stages proceed to a two to three week training programme, concluding their qualification.”

Lizelle Strydom, managing director of CareerBox, said: “The training program, and our work readiness training programs are free. It also gets a little bit controversial because people will say you are taking people from disadvantaged backgrounds and putting them in a two-weeks training period without pay.”

Lizelle Strydom, managing director of CareerBox

However, the training is not solely for the benefit of CCI or the BPO sector. Rather, it is geared to developing new skills, and to experiencing hands-on practice in the job market, to further prepare trainees for future opportunities.

CCI has created approximately 2,500 jobs this year in South Africa, and is continuing to create further employment opportunities. Of the CCI trainees who were promoted, 98.5% are candidates who were trained and placed through CareerBox. The organisations have already impacted over 200,000 lives in South Africa, and have a goal of changing 150,000 more lives by 2025, bringing their total to over 350,000 people.

A major goal is to invest in underprivileged communities in South Africa and to expand further into Africa. 

“It’s been a brave investment going into the rest of Africa,” said Andrew. “We started here in South Africa and the BPO industry followed. We’re doing the same in Kenya, in Rwanda, and in Uganda in terms of being the first to examine the ground in order to establish the industry in the hope that the industry grows around us as it has here in South Africa.”

Careers vary, and include call centre agents, customer service agents, reservations agents, sales agents, and technical support agents. The employees are all trained through CareerBox, and qualified for their respective jobs. They mostly train people with a matric qualification, but a post matric qualification is an added advantage.

Most of CCI’s advertising is done through word of mouth by giving career talks, visiting schools, and engaging with communities. Currently CareerBox has a hub in Umlazi, where it hopes to attract and train more youth and women from the community, and the surrounding areas.

I experienced a firsthand understanding of what being part of the organisation means by taking a tour of the CareerBox facility, viewing the training rooms, and visiting the computer labs. The interaction we had with two groups of the students created an optimistic atmosphere. 

The first group appeared excited and prepared for the industry, because they were in their last week of training. However, the second group was still a little perplexed and sceptical, as they were just starting their learning journey. The comparison between the two groups encapsulated how the training produced confident trainees, who were excited to venture out into their working lives. 

The absorption rate from CCI into the jobs market is 90–95%, and most of the trainees succeed in their various fields because of the informative programmes.

The country’s unemployment rate sat at 32% in the first quarter of 2023, according to Statistics South Africa. However, the BPO industry is growing at a rapid pace, and this expansion is changing lives. 

“Call centre jobs are among the most underrated jobs in South Africa, yet they can provide many job opportunities,” said Strydom. “The industry has seen more organisations follow in CareerBox’s footsteps, striving to create accessible training and employment for youth, and women in South Africa.”

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