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UPD and DOST launches training software for call centers

The members of the of the Inter-dsiciplinary Signal Processing for Pinoys Program during the launching
of the trial version of LEAP.

(December 3) –A standalone computer program that will primarily address the deficiencies in basic English language skills of Filipinos has been developed.

UP Diliman and the Department of Science and Technology’s (DOST) Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology Research and Development (PCIEERD), launched the trial version of Learning English Applications for Pinoys (LEAP) on November 22 at the Richmonde Hotel in Eastwood City, Quezon City.

LEAP is a software developed through the joint efforts of the UPD College of Engineering’s Electrical and Electronics Engineering Institute, the Department of Computer Science, the College of Arts and Letters’ Department of English and Comparative Literature, and Department of Speech Communication and Theater Arts. It is under the DOST-funded project entitled Interdisciplinary Signal Processing for Pinoys (ISIP) Project 7: Development of an English Language Training Software for Call Centers.

With the growing call center industry in the Philippines, or the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) sector for that matter, the demand for call center agents is high. According to Business Processing Association of the Philippines (BPAP), by 2016, the BPO sector can grow to up to $20 billion US dollars, and the country’s GDP can also increase from six to nine percent depending on how well the employment in the industry is sustained. BPAP is the umbrella association for the IT-BPO and Global In-House Center (GIC) industry in the Philippines. It (BPAP) “plays a pivotal role in sustaining rapid growth of the IT-BPO and GIC industry by ensuring an enduring supply of high quality labor, supporting service innovation, and providing country visibility.”

BPAP’s forecast may only be achieve if the demand of the industry—to provide first-rate call center agents-is met.

However, BPAP’s data show that majority of the current college students and college graduates in the Philippines do not possess the necessary competencies for the IT-BPO and GIC industry. This is demonstrated in the present hiring rate in the call center industry wherein only three to eight percent of the total applicants pass the screening process. If not addressed, this occurrence may lead to the failure to supply the workforce needed by the BPO industry in the coming years.

It is the problem of poor English language skills that the LEAP project wants to address. By arresting the difficulty in the earlier stages, i.e., with the high school and college students, in the long term the country will be able to provide the labor force needed for the call center industry and for the other types of companies as well.

LEAP has two modules: the grammar and vocabulary module, and the speech module.

The grammar and vocabulary module is designed to improve communication skills in English in order to cope with the demands of working in a global workplace. The program consists of various types of exercises that guide the user in improving his/her vocabulary, grammar and reading comprehension. A trainee is not allowed to proceed to the next exercise unless he/she gets the required number of correct items. Passing rate for each exercise is 60 percent.

The full version of the software, together with the speech module, is scheduled for release in July 2013.

Present during the launching were Dr. Cristina L. Guevarra, PCIEERD executive director; Dr. Susan P. Festin, project leader of ISIP Project 7; acting director III of CHED’s Office of Policy, Planning, Research & Information, Dr. Maria Teresita M. Semana; and Ms. Penny Bongato, BPAP Executive Director for Talent Development. - Albino C. Gamba