Spanish may become the new language in call centers
Northern Luzon Bureau

By Vincent Cabreza
BAGUIO CITY, Philippines -- The government's campaign to produce English speaking workers for the business outsourcing industry may soon become an outdated goal because the job market is now looking for Spanish speakers too, according to a school owner here.

Outsourcing clients from Spanish speaking countries have started checking out the Philippine labor force because of the country's historical Spanish links, and because its schools once required college students to take Spanish courses, Maria Bryce Fabro, president of the Center for Technical Excellence Integrated School Inc. (CTEISI), has said.

This client base accounted for 37 percent of the outsourcing market, she said.

Most businesses that require the services of call centers in the country have been concentrated in production and manufacturing, but demand is also growing for call centers that help manufacturers sell their products overseas, according to Fabro.

Many countries that buy these products are Spanish-speaking countries in America and Europe.

The Commission on Higher Education dropped Spanish from its mandatory courses more than 10 years ago, and many universities elected to make this language course as an elective.

Department of Labor and Employment studies showed a mismatch between popular courses taken by students and the actual demands from the labor force, Fabro said.

But new studies revealed an anomaly in communication skills being required by a section of the outsourcing market, she said.

In a recent study by the Personnel Management Association of the Philippines (PMAP), experts agree that the industry is looking for good communicators and not necessarily grammatical English speaking workers.

Fabro set up Language Zone Inc. this year to offer crash courses in Spanish when she realized that most business outsourcing enterprises are looking for workers who are fluent in Spanish.

An outsourcing firm in Pampanga advertises its Spanish-speaking work force as one of its strengths when it offers its services overseas, according to Fabro.

Language Zone was selling its services with the slogan "The World Speaks English" but was also teaching Nippongo to overseas workers who found new opportunities in Japan, she said.

She said English may have helped break down borders in trade but it opened the doors for other cultures to trade with the Philippines.

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