Call centres welcome trainer but prefer to teach own

A training company has high hopes for its dedicated call centre courses, though centre operators say they would rather train their own.

A training company has high hopes for its dedicated call centre courses, though centre operators say they would rather train their own.

Auckland-based Tricia’s Learning Academy set up a call centre training facility last month for 20 students, running what the academy says is the country’s first national certificate in call centre operations. Tricia’s plans to educate 160 students a year through a 21-week course that costs around $3700.

The academy’s Brandon Fontana says its own surveys suggest there is demand for such courses from the industry. The academy is partnering with call centre operators Talktactics in running the course and has received sponsorship from Lion Breweries and recruiter Drake International. Software is from Stayinfront.

Fontana says students at the new centre in Hereford House, once weeded out to see if they can speak well, will then be taught “everything they need to know to get a job in a call centre”.

Drake Personnel is happy to take on staff where it can, he says, and graduates might expect a starting salary of $38,000. “As long as they pass and their English is good, they will get a job. We won’t have trouble placing them,” Fontana says.

Call centre operators Sitel and Salesforce welcome the new qualification as a step towards improving industry standards and would be happy to consider Fontana’s graduates, but say they prefer to train their own.

Sitel managing director Russell Just, whose firm recently opened a major call centre in Hamilton employing up to 270 people, says his staff are trained internally to work with Sitel’s different clients. But from an employer’s view, it is “absolutely terrific people would arrive with a better level of skills”.

“Hopefully this will continue to improve [industry] standards if we have access to qualified personnel. It will certainly save us some time in having to do that development,” he says.

SalesForce New Zealand managing director Michael Masterton, whose firm employs 160 staff in central Auckland, says such courses might teach the basics but his firm needs to teach staff more specialist skills aligned to its clients. SalesForce Australia runs similar courses with government funding.

“We will interview [graduates] but we cannot say we will definitely hire staff,” he says.

Last year, ACA Research and call estimated the New Zealand call centre industry employed 40,000 staff at 500 centres nationally and was worth $1.7 billion to the New Zealand economy. Growth of 15% in 2001 was expected.

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