India’s National Association of Software and Service Companies (NASSCOM) is introducing a test for applicants to the Indian outsourcing industry, to screen out those who lack the skills required by the country’s call centers and business process outsourcing (BPO) and software services companies.
Currently, only about 25 percent of technical graduates and 10 percent to 15 percent of general college graduates are suitable for employment in the outsourcing industry, according to NASSCOM of Delhi. Even if they are technically qualified, they may lack good communication skills or the ability to speak or write well in English, NASSCOM President Kiran Karnik said Thursday.
As a result, companies hire less than 10 percent of candidates referred to them by placement firms. The problem is getting more acute as the industry hires close to 200,000 new staff a year.
The tests designed by NASSCOM in cooperation with the local industry will grade applicants on seven parameters, including analytical and communication skills, Karnik said.
The tests will help applicants find out areas in which they need additional training, Karnik said. Some local state governments are also participating in this project to get feedback on the areas in which they have to strengthen their education systems, said Sunil Mehta, vice president of NASSCOM.
NASSCOM has already completed a pilot of the screening test, called the NASSCOM Assessment of Competence (NAC), with the support of 22 outsourcing companies and local governments. About 6,000 applicants were screened, and NASSCOM now plans a nationwide rollout of the online test in November.
“We will start with six to eight cities, and then take it up to 30 cities quickly,” Mehta said. Tests will be conducted under supervision at designated Internet cafes in the first phase, though the software has provisions for candidates to take the tests without supervision, he added.
More than 90 percent of India’s software services, BPO and call-center companies have signed up for the program, said Md. Shahabuddin, a NASSCOM executive who heads the NAC program. Among them are local companies and Indian operations of multinational companies. About 33 percent of the operating expense of an offshore software or back-office processing operation in India is on recruitment and training, Shahabuddin said.
NASSCOM has also introduced a feature in the software that enables applicants to indicate their preference of employers when they take the test. As these tests will also be conducted in remote locations, the cost for companies of going to these locations to recruit staff will go down, Shahabuddin said.
-John Ribeiro, IDG News Service (Bangalore Bureau)
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