Sunday, August 25, 2019

Bam: Retrain BPM workers

A LAWMAKER is reminding government agencies and industry associations to retrain workers in the business process management (BPM) and upgrade their skills to be viable for higher job levels.

Failure to act urgently would cost them their jobs, warned Sen. Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV, during the second hearing on artificial intelligence’s (AI) threat on the BPM industry.

He said the government should protect the 1.4 million jobs in BPM from identified threats —AI, the tax reform law and the shifting economic policies of other countries.

“We must prepare for these threats and not be caught flat-footed,” said Aquino, in a statement. He is the chairman of the Committee on Science and Technology.

During the first Senate hearing on the threat of AI, the Information Technology and Business Process Association of the Philippines (IBPAP) mentioned that they are anticipating a decline in demand for low-skilled jobs in the IT-BPO industry of about 43,000 jobs by 2022.

On the bright side though, there is potential to open up 388,000 jobs for mid-skilled tasks, and 309,000 jobs for high-skilled tasks, also by 2022.

“The clear solution is to retrain our workers and upgrade their skills to be viable for higher job levels. Our training centers and academic institutions must start offering courses for these higher-skilled BPO jobs,” said Aquino, adding that government should also offer scholarships through Tesda to move lower-skilled BPM workers up the chain.

The senator said that in 2017, experts and industry leaders projected some 44,000 job displacements. However, he said they are recomputing this figure, as numbers could be higher. Aquino said his committee is set to meet next month for a third hearing so the industry could present actual figures and determine if the BPM industry has started shrinking.

Besides AI and the move of the US to bring back jobs in their own backyard, Aquino said that based on the sentiments of the industry, the implementation of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (Train) Law has negatively affected them.

The senator said there are certain provisions in the Train Law which is hurting the industry, worth $23 billion. He said they wanted to determine how the Train Law is affecting the industry and if it is still viable to correct them in the next tax reform package.

In a recent interview, Accenture Philippines managing director Lito Tayag said that companies can succeed in the midst of AI intervention with human-machine collaboration.

He also stressed the equal importance of helping the workforce move up the value chain as companies leverage on intelligent technologies to make business operations easier and more efficient.

Tayag also stressed that AI’s presence is not meant to replace or steal the jobs of humans but augment workers’ capability to handle more critical jobs.

An Accenture study recommended that business leaders reconfigure the work of their employees, shift workforce to new business models and upskill them such as injecting digital tools for them to learn and adopt new skills.

According to Cebu IT-BPM Organization (CIB.O) executive director Wilfredo Saa Jr., Cebu’s growth in the BPM industry was related to higher value services. The industry is now eyeing the first graduates of senior high school as the newest workers to join the industry. (KOC)
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