SHORTAGE OF SUITABLE call centre staff is forcing companies to seek new sites beyond the ‘traditional’ locations of Scotland, the North West and Greater London. Areas such as Kent, Birmingham and Belfast are now being trawled by anxious call centre executives as they struggle to keep pace with the sector’s phenomenal growth. According to consultancy Mitial, which conducted 700 interviews with UK and Irish call centre operators, there are 2,150 ‘full-size’ centres currently operating in the UK - likely to rise to 3,700 by year 2000. This means that the number of sites in the British Isles will have trebled in four years. (‘Full-size’ is defined as having at least 20 staff manning phones.) Employment estimates for the industry are vague in the extreme, varying between 150,000 and 320,000. Mitial believes the headcount is in the region of 270,000, and higher still if the growing number of small centres is included.