THE business process outsourcing (BPO) industry is scaling down its upskilling program to about 1,000 employees this year as it shifts to online training sessions due to disruptions caused by the pandemic.

The Information Technology and Business Process Association of the Philippines (IBPAP) still hopes to train a million employees over five years, but acknowledges the funding is not yet available.

IBPAP Chief Executive Officer and President Rey E. Untal said in an online interview Wednesday that the pilot program will be launched by late July or early August. The original launch date in May was postponed because of the lockdown.

“We also had to taper (the scale) down a bit because now the modality of teaching will be online versus our original plan (of) combined online and classroom.”

He said the pilot program was scaled back from the original 4,000 to 5,000 participants. This includes employees already in the industry, or prospective outsourcing workers.

The pilot program is funded by the Department of Information and Communications Technology.

“The intent, really, when this goes full blast is a very ambitious program (of) more than 100,000, and it increases every year. But… the need for funding is very critical and this is not something that is available right now,” Mr. Untal said.

He said a proposal to reduce corporate income tax rates and overhaul fiscal incentives could have generated P5 billion yearly for the industry’s skills upgrade program.

“Unfortunately we don’t see that right now in the (CREATE) bill.”

The repackaged Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises Act (CREATE) bill aims to offer tailored incentives for investors and accelerate the timeline for reducing corporate income tax.

IBPAP estimates that the upskilling and reskilling of 1 million workers will require P40 billion in funding from the government, possibly supplemented by overseas assistance. — Jenina P. Ibañez