A discussion of three job trends and opportunities that will become more evident in the Caribbean in the medium- to long-term.
Generally, Caribbean telecoms is changing. From the introduction of competition in the mobile/cellular market in the Bahamas, to the inevitable restructuring that is currently occurring in countries where telecoms firms LIME and/or Flow have a presence, within the next year or so, the sector may be vastly different from what it is now.
Competition in telecoms services, particularly the mobile/cellular segment, has been a right of passage globally for countries to enjoy better quality, along with improved and more cost effective services. Similarly, mergers and acquisitions tend to be considered positive signs of a developing industry, though it is crucial that safeguards are instituted to ensure that the sector does not revert back to a monopoly, or an otherwise uncompetitive environment.
Over the past few weeks, it has thus been disconcerting to read about the job losses that are imminent due to the ‘progress’ that is being made in telecoms across the region. Although we live in a day and age when being with the same organisation from the start of one’s career to the end is rare, the job market across the region has been tight: supply overwhelms demand. In a nutshell, now might not be a good time to be out of a job.
Having said this, the anticipated job cuts are inevitable. Though these losses might be delayed or phased over a period of time, they will still happen, as the Bahamas Telecommunications Company, LIME, FLOW, and others, continue to streamline their operations to become more efficient and profitable. However, new opportunities in the telecoms space are also beginning to emerge for which skilled labour will be essential. Three are outlined below.
1. New players, new jobs
The recently concluded acquisition of Columbus International by Cable & Wireless Communications plc might be one of the largest transactions in the region, but it is not the first. Over the past decade or so, since telecoms sectors across the region were liberalised, there have been a several sales and mergers of telecoms firms, which essentially have been reducing the number of players in many of the key market segments. In many countries affected by the LIME—Flow sale, segments such as fixed-line telephony and Internet ay ultimately have only one provider, which the countries may wish to remedy in the long term.
Further, in countries where telecoms sector liberalisation occurred several years ago, the dynamics of the players and the sense of competition among them would have dampened over time. The introduction of new players could inject new energy into markets across the region, potentially yielding much welcomed results for the wider society.
Jamaica appears to be first out of the blocks with plans to auction up to 12 mobile/cellular licences in the coming months (Source: The Gleaner). Although three mobile/cellular carrier licences are active (with two known to be in operation), the new proposed auction will be targeting Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs), which will lease needed infrastructure from existing carriers to provide their services. These new MVNOs will need skilled personnel to roll out and man their operations.
Similarly, and in the Bahamas, which is currently in the process of licensing a second mobile/cellular provider, the successful firm will require access to a broad range of skills and expertise – ranging from, for example, to build its network, and to sell prepaid calling cards. It would also be a distinct plus for it to recruit individuals with industry-specific experience, which they would have obtained from other telecoms firms.
2. Outsourcing and third party service providers
Though new and existing telecoms firms will need skilled personnel that they can employ, consistent with the thrust towards greater efficiency and increased cost savings, they may be more prepared to outsource non-core services and operations to third party service providers.
Currently many telecoms firms across the region have outsourced, to some degree, customer premises installation and maintenance, along with marketing/promotion and customer care. However, there is considerable scope to extend to administrative services – business process outsourcing – in areas such as finance and accounting, HR, payroll, debt collection, etc.
3. Data/internet-related services and opportunities
Globally, data and the Internet are considered essential to our long-term economic (and possibly social) survival. Accordingly, telecoms firms, including those in the Caribbean, are being forced to devise better to capitalise on that opportunity, and to replace eroding revenues from traditional voice-based services.
Thanks to the continued support for policies, such as network neutrality, telecoms firms, which can also be the Internet infrastructure owners, are constrained in the pricing structures they can institute to generate more revenue. It therefore means that in addition to selling bandwidth on their networks, firms may need to develop additional services that possibly supplement and complement those they already offer. In the Caribbean, for example, services could be developed around big data, data analytics and cloud-based solutions – that will be value to micro, small and medium enterprises especially, which comprise over 80% of the region’s commercial sector.
First, it is important to emphasise that none of the above trends and opportunities are quick fixes: they are likely to become more evident in the medium to long term. However, we all now have the chance to ensure that we are properly positioned to capitalise on them (and others) when they arise. In that regard, retraining and efforts towards continuous professional development – to develop new and in-demand skills – could be considered.
Image credit: neetalparekh (flickr)