At SYKES, we are dedicated to fostering positive impacts in the communities where we operate. As a result of this dedication, SYKES Costa Rica opened its English language academy in 2007, when talent demand in the corporate services sector was high and the bilingual candidate’s pool was low.
To meet demand and develop talent to generate sustainability and social mobility, SYKES Academy was born. The company created this program to close gaps among those looking for a position in the growing services industry but whose English proficiency was insufficient to be considered strong candidates. The differentiating factor for this program was its sustainability impact: Candidates who were close to entry-level positions would be offered a placement in the Academy for a month and given the possibility of being hired upon successfully completing the course. In 2019, SYKES strengthened the Academy by offering four English courses, increasing students’ opportunities of being hired by companies that serve mainly North American markets.
This program has made such a significant impact on the country and services industry that in early 2019, we signed an agreement with the government of the Republic of Costa Rica that would double the admission from 1,500 to 3,000 candidates per year and guarantee subsidies for the beneficiaries and a small income for the company. This agreement would allow SYKES to expand its installed capacity by doubling the number of instructors, computer labs, and digital platforms, leading to a higher number of bilingual candidates to contribute to the industry’s increasing talent demands. The corporate services sector comprises over 180 multinational companies, including more than 82,000 jobs requiring English as the primary language to serve global markets. By the end of 2020, SYKES Academy’s historical numbers totaled more than 13,000 admitted candidates to that rapidly growing sector.
SYKES Academy has a team of more than 30 professionals in English teaching and a management team focused on improving the programs, which are continuously adapted to fit the needs of the company’s operations. The Academy uses the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR), a standard for any language in the world. Following these guidelines, the Academy offers proficiency levels, each with appropriate maturation times that advance students to the competency level that the industry requires:
- A2 (Waystage), seven weeks, 140 hours
- B1 (Threshold), six weeks, 120 hours
- B2 (vantage), five weeks, 100 hours
- B2 + (independent high), four weeks, 80 hours
The classes have a solid foundation in grammar and reading comprehension, and 80% of the content is focused on speaking to ensure conversation is fluent, clear, and compelling. The range of the modules includes aspects such as grammar, American culture, writing skills, accent reduction, intonation patterns, functional language, communication skills, active listening, reading comprehension, and fluency.
The Academy also incorporates other topics depending on the services’ verticals or specificity, including financial, technology, collections, sales, or others. Thus, the program contributes to developing the necessary skills for exemplary performance in those areas beyond English teaching.
SYKES is proud to know that other public and private companies are replicating the methodology of the English Academy, which has led the way in training a significant percentage of applicants who enter the labor market thanks to this initiative that promotes talent and competitiveness for the industry and the country.
About the Program Owner
Rogelio Mathews is the Language Programs manager for SYKES Costa Rica. He has a Master’s degree in international trade as well as in linguistics from the University of North Carolina and NYU. Rogelio is an international consultant in language proficiency with more than 15 years of experience in language acquisition and curriculum design. He has been at SYKES for close to 15 years, growing in the talent development and language upskilling field. Rogelio has been instrumental in designing and implementing SYKES Academy locally and in the LATAM area, contributing to sustainability strategies related to talent development.