Social enterprise BagoSphere is expanding its intensive and affordable job training program to key cities in the Philippines to give more high school and college graduates better opportunities to jumpstart their career in the outsourcing industry.
“When we first started BagoSphere, we wanted to create an affordable solution to tackle youth unemployment. In the last two years testing and implementing our training model in Bago City, we learned a lot about helping young people find meaningful jobs. We saw life-transforming results and measurable social impact. Now, we have started our expansion plans with Bacolod City, the capital of Negros Occidental, and we hope to help more high school and college graduates gain relevant communication and IT skills in an authentic work setting and get them hired,” said Zhihan Lee, co-founder and CEO of BagoSphere.
Lee, together with two other Singaporeans Ellwyn Tan and Ivan Lau, founded Bagosphere after leading volunteer projects in Bago City while still college students at the National University of Singapore.
After Bacolod City, Bagosphere is setting its sights on Quezon City, which is scheduled to open by fourth quarter of the year.
He added: “We started BagoSphere because we have seen that youth unemployment is one of the strongest drivers for poverty. At the same time, we live in a world where a college degree doesn’t guarantee a job anymore, and it’s a long and expensive road getting there. In India, I saw how rural youths with no formal education can find full-time employment thirty minutes away from home in a data work center! I thought to myself, we have to help young people find good jobs in an increasingly competitive job market in South East Asia.”
Bagosphere’s expansion is being backed by its latest impact investor elea Foundation for Ethics in Globalisation, a Swiss-based organization supporting social enterprises based in developing countries.
“As a philanthropic impact investor active all across emerging economies, elea Foundation has chosen to support BagoSphere because of its outstanding, sustainable approach in the professional skill building space. Its combination of an effective, scalable training program with micro-loan funding and a focus on building a strong community of students, trainers and graduates already brings great opportunities to underprivileged youths in the Philippines. We believe in the potential of BagoSphere’s model to reach out to many more young people and offer them a first step towards a self-determined future,” said Adrian Ackeret, Associate at elea Foundation for Ethics in Globalization and member of BagoSphere’s Board of Advisors.
Operating since January 2013, BagoSphere already boasts of having 373 graduates, of which 240 have been hired by BPOs despite 53% of them having zero previous work experience. The graduates also received an average starting salary and performance incentives of P10,000 per month.
BagoSphere has partnered with Teleperformance, Transcom, and Panasiatic, three of the leading global outsourcing companies in the country, for immediate placements after undergoing training. Lee expects to replicate their success in Bago City to the Bacolod and Quezon City branches.
The training also attracted the attention of the Department of Social Welfare and Development in Region VI, which has tapped BagoSphere to train students belonging to the conditional cash transfer (CCT) beneficiary-families from Bago City. With 80% of students under the first DSWD batch finding call center employment within two weeks of graduation, DSWD is now looking at a long-term partnership with BagoSphere.
Aside from DSWD, BagoSphere also provides training programs to the family members of the Negros Women for Tomorrow Foundation (NWTF) borrowers.
Bagosphere in its pilot phase was supported by the National University of Singapore (NUS), and later signed up for its seed round impact investors led by xchange, a social enterprise incubator in the Philippines; Kickstart Ventures, the wholly-owned Venture Capital subsidiary of Globe Telecom; and Small World Group Incubator in Singapore. Incidentally, Globe provides one-year free internet and mobile phone services to BagoSphere as part of its Corporate Social Responsibility commitments.
“We are proud of the milestones achieved by BagoSphere, the only brick-and-mortar company in our startup portfolio. Hopefully, the inspiring stories coming out of the Bagosphere graduates would encourage other impact investors to sign up with Bagosphere so that the work they’ve started for the benefit of unemployed and underemployed Filipino youth would reach other areas,” said Pia Angeli Bernal, social impact investments manager of Kickstart.
BagoSphere is, likewise, a Kiva Field Partner. Thus, its students are able to crowdfund their training costs via third-party and private contributors. BagoSphere’s role is to screen the borrower to add credibility to the micro-loan requester.
BagoSphere is currently accepting applications for its August 10 classes in the cities of Bacolod and Bago.
BagoSphere is a social enterprise created to tackle rising youth unemployment in the world. To do that, BagoSphere offers an affordable and intensive job preparation program that teaches high school graduates and college graduates relevant communication and IT skills in an authentic work setting and gets them hired.
BagoSphere is the recipient of the Singapore International Foundation’s Young Social Entrepreneurs Grant Program and an award winner of Start-up@Singapore’s Social Enterprise competition in 2012. In 2013, BagoSphere was named as one of the top 20 hottest start-ups in Singapore by Singapore Business Review.
In 2008, co-founders Ellwyn Tan and Ivan Lau led volunteer projects in Bago City, Philippines while still college students at the National University of Singapore. Co-founder Zhihan Lee led projects in Laos and Thailand. Exploring poverty first-hand in South East Asia, they realized that many solutions to poverty are too slow to effect or are simply unsustainable. In 2010, Zhihan returned from a study trip in rural India with a social enterprise that trains illiterate youths to be employed as data-entry workers. The three then decided to pilot their model in Bago City in 2011.