Is there adequate talent in Latin America to fuel growth and adequately meet North American outsourcing demand? Scalability continues to be a challenge for the region in both perception and reality. The fact is, the population is not as great as in other regions and thus the workforce pool is not as large. Attracting and retaining LATAM’s young professionals is critical to growing resources to support innovation as well as more routine IT operations.
Looking at Mexico City as a microcosm for LATAM, growth is evidenced by the numbers. In a past study, Going Global, the 2012 Investor’s Guide to Mexico’s Business and Technology Services, Nearshore Americas quoted Gartner as saying that, “Mexico is the fourth largest producer of IT services after India, the Philippines, and China. Data from the Ministry of the Economy shows that exports in the information technology, administrative and technical services sector (ITO and BPO) have more than doubled over the last four years, with a total market value reaching four billion US dollars in 2010.”
For service providers ready to take on the training and education to hone their workforce, business opportunities are on the table. The question remains whether or not LATAM operations can acquire additional headcount in a range of IT disciplines when the population is simply smaller. “India has a clear advantage when it comes to population (over one billion compared to Mexico’s 110 million) as well as English speaking personnel, some also point to the overall management model of domestic operators in Mexico, and a lack of focus on comprehensive training programs at the company level,” the report notes.
Some service providers are prepared to take on investment in people. Neoris, a provider with a strong foothold in ERP services as well as vertical-specific expertise, acknowledges the need for ongoing training of its team. Neoris is taking a unique approach to attracting young minds to the technology industry. CEO Claudio Muruzábal was on the board, and for some time was President, of Junior Achievement (JA) in Argentina, a global non-profit organization geared to educate students about business. Muruzábal is committed to investment of corporate resources in support of growing a workforce, or as Neoris puts it, “planting seeds” to develop interest in IT as a career-path.
Each year, Neoris hosts a mentoring day in conjunction with JA that it calls NEOfrontiers Day. The Neoris event involved five countries in 2013, with participants from Miami (USA), Madrid (Spain), Monterrey (Mexico), Rosario (Argentina) and Sao Paulo (Brazil). NEOfrontiers Day offers youth an opportunity to shadow professionals, gain access to technologies, work with professional mentors and begin to understand the outsourcing business with the aim of encouraging technology-related disciplines as professional goals.
Students are able to gain perspective into the day-to-day work environment before they finalize career choices. One student, Abel Paladini, who now studies Systems Engineering at the National University from Rosario, had the opportunity to participate prior to finalizing his career choice. “I was able to confirm that this [IT] was the career I wanted to study because of what I saw, lived and learned,” Palandini said. The best part of the experience for him was “the experience of a work day with a professional on the course of studies I chose to follow.”
JA is a global, non-profit, with a mission to “empower young people to own their economic success,” according to the organization’s mission statement. Nearshore spoke with JA’s Paula Pastor Flores, regional program manager for the Americas region, who explained that JA’s objectives are three-pronged: to development financial literacy among student populations, promote entrepreneurship and begin to establish work readiness in early grades K-12. The organization wants to inspire kids to pursue opportunities, which is where Neoris’ involvement with the JA comes into play. “Neoris participation in putting together a mentoring day is unique in the region as it spans multiple geographies,” Flores explained. She would like to see more companies getting involved with the K-12 student population for their benefit and to build a stronger LATAM workforce in areas of high growth.
Beyond JA, Neoris is also investing in university programming. The company is continuing its mentoring approach in post-secondary education. The most important programs for Neoris are “Thought Leadership” and “SAP University Alliances.” Neoris consultants provide training to university students on the subject of thought leadership, while consultants and students study together to learn SAP tools and co-innovate in support of the SAP-based programming.
The need to continually educate a workforce is a learning process for the region and service providers with LATAM operations. Ravi Shanker, sales director for HCL America, contrasted India with Mexico in Going Global. “Companies in India like Infosys can hire 25,000 people every year, 80 percent of which are straight out of college and not necessarily from technical backgrounds. The difference is that they put new recruits through an intensive two to three month training program, building their workers’ skills from the bottom-up.”
LATAM service providers will need to understand the magnitude of investment. Neoris recognizes, as do other service providers, that training geared to specific service needs rests with them. These companies are appropriately focused on reducing attrition and improving job satisfaction while building more robust training programs; understanding that investment in people is at the heart of fueling business in Latin America.