MONCTON (GNB) – Contact Atlantic, the largest contact centre industry conference and expo east of Montreal, takes place in Moncton Nov. 9 – 10. Opportunities NB is a major sponsor of the event, which is organized by Contact NB, the provincial industry association. More than 200 industry professionals are expected at the expo.

The provincial government is making plans to help move the sector toward creating  higher-paying, higher-skilled employment opportunities.

“To move New Brunswick forward we must retain and build upon our distinct assets,” said Economic Development Minister Francine Landry, who is also minister responsible for Opportunities NB. “Due to our province’s existing strengths in the contact centre sector, including our bilingual workforce, excellent telecommunication infrastructure and existing cluster of firms, the contact centre sector has been identified as an opportunity for continued growth in New Brunswick Economic Growth Plan in the areas of business services support and financial services.”

“Our vision is that this sector will continue to evolve and we have a role to play to ensure it remains an important growth industry for the province,” she said.

Landry noted that more New Brunswickers work in the contact centre industry than in forestry, fishing and mining combined. One out of every 20 workers (18,000) is employed in the sector at almost 90 centres throughout the province. The contact centres in Moncton, Saint John and Fredericton account for 85 per cent of this employment but centres also exist in Miramichi, Bathurst, Campbellton and Edmundston as well as in many rural communities.

The sector generates more than $1 billion in annual export revenue for New Brunswick. However, the nature of the industry is changing as customer interaction and business services move online.

“There are challenges facing the sector, ranging from the availability of skilled workers to structural changes in the process of customer interaction,” said Stephen Lund, CEO of Opportunities NB. “Addressing these challenges will create new opportunities that will provide high-paying and skilled jobs for New Brunswickers, particularly for our young people.”

The contact or “call centre” sector began in the province more than 25 years ago when an available, skilled and bilingual workforce was used by the provincial government to attract global companies such as IBM, Xerox, ExxonMobil, Purolator, Federal Express and the Royal Bank.

Opportunities NB is a Crown corporation that seeks to attract and support opportunities to grow the economy and create jobs. It provides support services for businesses across the province.