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08:37 on Wednesday
7 March 2001

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Positively Peterborough

Peterborough call centre campaign goes nationwide


Peterborough’s pioneering campaign to improve career prospects and quality standards in the fast-growing customer call centre industry will be copied nationwide next month (November) with the launch of a new ‘best practice’ promotion.

A Standard for Best Practice and a national campaign to improve the image of call centre careers is being introduced, a meeting of Peterborough’s Call Centre Forum was told. The news came from Colin Mackay, head of quality and standards at the Call Centre Association which represents the interests of 430 member organisations.

With the call centre business growing at around 15 per cent and creating almost 40,000 new jobs annually, Peterborough has been at the forefront of initiatives to recruit and train more people and to develop systems that will offer employees long-term career prospects.

A Call Centre Forum initiative - launched by Greater Peterborough Investment Agency (GPIA) and Greater Peterborough Chamber of Commerce last autumn - has brought together the city’s major call centre operations and introduced a government-funded pilot scheme to train people for call centre jobs.

Now plans are underway to expand the pilot training scheme and to encourage more people to pursue call centre careers.

GPIA chief executive Gloria Milne told forum members: “We have made considerable progress in raising public perceptions about career prospects within the customer service call centre industry. Now we aim to develop a system that will attract people from among Peterborough’s ‘latent workforce’ to benefit from the flexible working arrangements that are now available.

“Customer service call centres offer new employment prospects for hundreds of local people, including those who have been made redundant from manufacturing jobs, young mothers and women who can return to work after bringing up families.

“Call centre operators now offer tremendous flexibility in working hours to accommodate a wide range of personal circumstances.”

The potential for more people to work in call centres was demonstrated by the large number of enquiries about places on Peterborough’s pilot call centre training scheme, which was launched at the Peterborough ITeC business college in Vicarage Farm Road on 16 October. However, many of the applicants did not match the scheme’s eligibility criteria and were given advice about other training opportunities.

The eight people who have enrolled come from diverse employment backgrounds, said ITeC joint general manager Margaret Young. They include lone parents, people who are returning to work after raising families and others who have been made redundant or have been unemployed for over six months.

The three-day per week course will result in an RSA qualification and covers computer skills training, customer service and telephone techniques, practical experience at local call centres, confidence building and CV production. 

Despite some negative publicity, call centre operations are growing at 13 to 15 per cent annually, creating 38,000 jobs in 1999. The main operators are banking, insurance and financial services (21 per cent), telemarketing and outsourcing (18 per cent), local government and public sector organisations (14 per cent), telecommunications (seven per cent) and retail and mail order
(seven per cent).

October 2000

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