Sitel® Philippines in Bloom: the Educational Alchemy of Sitel Academy
From a simple aim of giving back to the local community to a nationwide, nationally recognized and celebrated training initiative, Sitel® Academy has blossomed into a pioneering BPO skills development program that’s helped over 26,000 people around the Philippines nation and counting. When you hold a seed in your hand, it can be hard to
From a simple aim of giving back to the local community to a nationwide, nationally recognized and celebrated training initiative, Sitel® Academy has blossomed into a pioneering BPO skills development program that’s helped over 26,000 people around the Philippines nation and counting.
When you hold a seed in your hand, it can be hard to comprehend that something so tiny and delicate, can be packed full with so much transformational potential – if it’s properly nurtured.
But mighty oaks from little acorns grow or, in the case of Sitel Academy, mighty Narra from little pods grow.
The seed of Sitel Academy was planted in 2007. Seven trainers decided they wanted to give something back to the local community around Baguio, Philippines and began offering free customer service-focused English lessons.
It was a simple idea, but because of constant nourishment and enrichment, Sitel Academy quickly put down roots and started to grow, blossoming into an award-winning initiative that’s helping thousands of people to realize their own potential to grow.
For those that may not know, the Narra is the national tree of the Philippines. And no matter where you look across the archipelago – from the glass, concrete and steel of Manila to the 16th century colonial charm of Vigan and the unspoiled natural beauty of the Chocolate Hills, the tree, with its distinctive yellow flowers, can be found.
Though the tree grows throughout southeastern Asia, northern Australasia and the western Pacific Ocean islands, thanks to the country’s combination of climate and the richness of its soil, the Narra takes root and blossoms more prevalently in the Philippines – sometimes maturing within five years and growing up to 30 meters, or nearly 100 feet, tall.
All of which makes the tree a fitting analogy not just for Sitel Academy, but for the industry that supports it. Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) may be prevalent across the whole of Asia, but it has put down roots and blossomed quickest in the Philippines.
Growing to Transform
Twenty years ago, the BPO industry accounted for less than 1% of the country’s total GDP; today that figure is up to 15%. The industry is proving to be a perfect fit for a country looking to transition from relying on agriculture to building a stronger, more diverse economy around manufacturing and services.
That huge growth – which is expected to continue post-COVID-19 – is due in part to the sheer depth of the country’s talent pool. Access to and levels of education and literacy are among the best on the continent. And yet, the archipelago’s BPO success is as much a testament to a rich and fertile Filipino culture, which is rooted in openness, generosity, positivity and care for community and others. These are the roots any contact center agent, trainer or manager needs to put down if they wish to succeed.
It’s a little wonder that the Philippines government estimates that there are already 2 million people around the country employed within the BPO sector.
However, even with the best conditions, not every seed planted can be expected to reach maturity without some form of care or intervention. Transformation – whether across an entire economy or within a single organization – is about people; and even though the country is changing quickly, not everyone is able to move at the same pace. Some communities and some groups of people are finding it harder than others to take full advantage of these new economic opportunities or to align their skills with the job market.
It was this recognition, that some people’s skills need more nurturing than others before a career can blossom, that proved the motivating factor in creating Sitel Academy.
It put down its roots initially in Baguio in 2007 by offering the local community free contact center-focused English lessons. And, like the Narra tree, within five years it was already beginning to mature into something much bigger and something more prominent across the country. In 2011, Sitel Academy put down roots in Manila, then Puerto Princesa and Tarlac before this year adding eLearning so that potentially anyone anywhere in the country with access to the internet has access to free skills and language training. This addition has been welcomed in particular by those who have had to obey shelter in place orders due in attempts to manage the spread of COVID-19 in recent months.
But as well as spreading across the country like seed pods blown from Narra trees, as Sitel Academy has matured and its branches have strengthened and grown, so can they reach more types of people in different situations.
Rather than simply helping those already in education to improve their chances of starting a career within BPO, Sitel Academy has started working with those who may have had limited access to education or those who have struggled to find work since leaving college.
Developing skills helps people grow in confidence and this self-belief is often all that’s missing – without it, some younger people can be tempted to give up on applying for another job because of the initial rejections they’ve already experienced.
In addition to working with the long-term unemployed, since 2018 Sitel Academy has operated in partnership with ATRIEV – a non-profit organization focused on leveraging IT to help empower visually impaired people – to help the differently abled build the confidence and skills needed for the BPO industry but also to give them a genuine first-hand experience of what it’s like to work in a corporate environment.
This goal of attempting to unlock opportunity for all ultimately led to Sitel Academy winning the People Program of the Year Award for Talent Development in 2018 from The People Management Association of the Philippines. The jury, which considered over 150 different schemes, courses and initiatives, singled out Sitel Academy for its success in reaching Filipinos in marginalized sectors across the capital and within rural countryside areas and for its focus on corporate social responsibility.
Sitel Academy continues to pick up awards and it continues to form partnerships. It now works with 150 universities around the Philippines and alongside government agencies such as the Department of Labor and Employment and the Commission on Higher Education.
Since that first seed was planted, 26,000 people have graduated from the Sitel Academy and 10,000 have found jobs directly within Sitel as a result, but, just as important is the fact that it’s still growing, getting stronger and putting down more roots that will help more people bloom. Learn more about Sitel Philippines at philippines.sitel.com.