Certifying Employability - Why and How

Notwithstanding the hiring slowdown, Indian IT/ITeS sector is still the biggest job provider for fresh graduates in India. There are more than 2500 engineering colleges in India churning out more than 0.7 million fresh engineering talent every year. With vast differences in education system, grading system and cultural prejudices across geographies, it becomes really difficult for any company to standardize their talent selection. There is no way of finding whether a candidate scoring 8 GPA in an IIT can be considered equivalent to another student scoring same but studying in a private engineering college. In absence of standard parameters for comparison, companies today rely on proxy parameters like college scores, class XII scores, college name, college city, home city and many such other factors that in reality have no or very low correlation with a candidate’s actual potential.

It is indeed a paradox that on one hand we have 0.7 million candidates who complain about lack of job opportunities and on the other hand several categories of IT jobs currently face shortages of qualified workers, a troubling trend that is projected to get worse over the next five to seven years. These positions range from entry-level jobs in customer support and help desk to more advanced jobs in database administration, network security and project management. The only practical solution to bridge this gap is by introducing a third party and neutral assessment body with no vested interests in either party, in other word an employability certification.

Employability Certification

Employability certification is a well known and accepted concept globally. There are tons of companies that claim to train candidates and then assess them and provide them employability certificates. However the whole concept of neutral assessment goes for a toss in this case.

Employability certification can be based on two models- Industry based and State based. We will discuss both briefly in the following paragraphs.

Industry Based Employment Certification- In many industries, leader companies have developed their certifications to indicate employability of a candidate in a particular area. These industry certifications provide a very clear signal to the labor market about a candidate’s employability. Aside from industry produced assessments, there are also a handful of third party organizations that provide industry-validated assessments. The biggest advantage of such certifications is that it is a valid assessment and proof of a candidate’s employability. It allows recruiters to compare and analyze the potential of every candidate with confidence and without bias.

State Based Employment Certification- Many countries are also promoting government Employment certifications. States like Massachusetts and Kentucky in USA are examples of state model in which employability certification programs are developed in cooperation with employers. There are also some states like Utah which are developing end-of-course exams that presumably assess skills as well as knowledge. Such state based employment certifications are not only valid and reliable but also neutral and unbiased.

Assessing Employability

While the need and advantages of third party employment certification has clearly been established, especially for the Indian IT/ITeS sector, the question arises, what constitutes employability. Employability can be defined as possessing knowledge, competencies and skills required to do a particular job well. If we look at the IT/ITeS sector, employability parameters would include- communication skills, analytical and numerical skills, required domain knowledge and personality factors like agreeableness, team work, emotional stability etc.  Aspiring Minds has done several benchmarking studies with leading IT/ ITeS companies pan India to understand what differentiates a good performer from a bad performer in an organization. It was found that Analytical ability followed by Domain Knowledge and Communication skills were the predominant factors that differentiates between employees in terms of their performance within the company.

Armed with this knowledge, and with an aim to demystify employability,  Aspiring Minds’ conducted a nationwide study on engineers1 to understand and calibrate their employability as required by the industry. This National Employability Report found that only 17.45% of Indian engineers passing out every year are employable for the IT services sector, while a dismal 3.51% are appropriately trained to be directly deployed on projects. Further, only 2.68% are employable in IT product companies, which require greater understanding of computer science and algorithms.

While studying national and state employability, another interesting trend that came up was that almost 70-80% of employable engineers are outside the top 100 Engineering colleges.  This coupled with the fact that most IT companies India restrict themselves to visiting top 100-150 colleges indicates that a majority of employable youth are outside the range of IT recruiters.

 

Top 30 percentile campuses
(~750 colleges)

Rest of the campuses
(~1750 colleges)

IT Services Employability

28%

12%

Percent Employable Pool

50%

50%

IT Product Employability

5.81%

0.97%

Percent Employable Pool

72%

28%

Table 1: Top 30 percentile campuses vs. the rest

The National Employability Report also indicates that average employability in colleges in the top 30 percentile (around 750 colleges) is 28%, whereas it is around 12% for the rest of the colleges. This implies that almost an equal number of employable candidates are there in the top 750 campuses as compared to the rest. Consider that no IT company in India has a campus recruitment program beyond the top 750 campuses, which shows that almost half of the employable pool, i.e., around 50,000 employable candidates in the country, is invisible to recruiters. Similarly for IT product companies, almost 28% of the available talent is unavailable. This artificial shrinkage of supply leads to multiple problems for all stakeholder i.e. corporates, campuses, students and country as a whole:

Certification and Inclusion

The major reason why companies shy away from visiting Tier II and Tier III colleges is because of high costs involved and low confidence in quality of candidates in such colleges. A common employment certification can work wonders for bridging this gap by bringing this employable youth in the range of recruiters. The employability quotient assessed by a common test, and not college name of a candidate should be highlighted to the recruiter. This common test will ensure that Offer Letters are given on the basis of standardized benchmarks on the candidate’s competencies and skills and eliminate all human bias based on region, background, college rank etc.

The standardized test would ensure that only meritorious students are getting selected and also increase the supply side by many folds. Corporates would get much better access to talent across nation and able to conduct recruitment in much more standardized and cost effectively.

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1. The National Employability Report by Aspiring Minds is based on a sample of more than 55,000 engineering students from 250+ engineering colleges across multiple Indian states. All these candidates graduated in 2011. The analysis and findings of this report are based on the results of these students on AMCAT: Aspiring Minds Computer Adaptive Test, which is India’s largest and only standardized employability test. Employability has been quantified based on the benchmarking studies done at various companies in different sectors by Aspiring Minds. The grading on colleges was done on parameters such as the industry's perception of the college, peer review, average annual graduation score, number of campus interviews and number of students placed. : http://www.aspiringminds.in/docs/national_employability_report_engineers_2011.pdf

AMCAT Database

  • Engineers14,13,192
  • MBA's1,59,618
  • Graduates2,17,024

AMCAT employable search

  • IT services2,92,895
  • IT products69,227
  • Business analytics1,96,557
  • Sales & marketing36,899
  • Banking & finance32,251

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