Systems integrator Compucon has come up with a novel idea to help solve the IT industry's staffing problems: training prison inmates to carry out computer repairs.
Compucon sales and marketing director Philip Tran told ARN last week he is in the middle of setting up a scheme with the Corrective Services Industry (CSI), to train inmates to carry out warranty and repair work via call centres located within NSW jails. Once the inmates have served their sentence, they would be able to join the community with qualifications and experience to enter the workforce.
"It gives inmates an employment opportunity when they are released and it is a good way of getting new staff," Tran explained.
The idea began just over three months ago when the Bathurst correctional facility contacted the company to ask about the availability of menial work. Tran is now in the process of setting up a call centre within the facility.
According to Tran, the idea is to source training from manufacturers. He is currently talking with major retailers about establishing a warranty repair scheme, a joint venture between the company set up by Tran and an insurance company, which has yet to be announced. The inmates will be organised and paid through the CSI, providing savings for the company which would typically pay around $35-40,000 for call centre support staff.
"We want to take advantage of the existing market to reach the retailer, who can sell onsite warranty as an extended option," said Tran.
He expects the take-up of the scheme by retailers to be successful because of the margins involved.
"We are offering high margins, around 80 per cent, and we can funnel back repair work to the facility. That way, customers get a good deal because the warranty is under written by the insurance company."
The next step in the plan is to have the call centre certified by the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO). Tran is also planning a peripheral repair program that would see old scanners, printers and PCs repaired and sold in countries such as India and China.
The call centre will initially employ around 17 staff with hope to expand to around 80 by the end of the year.
"We are looking at tying up all the institutions in NSW," Tran explained. "A major CSI consideration is that we don't make an impact on existing employment opportunities."