According to the National Association of Software and Services Company, 3 million students will graduate in 2010, and the IT or BPO industry will be looking for 2.3 million workers.. Overall, this seems like an ideal balance. However, almost 40 percent of this available pool is not suited for careers in BPO, and another 20 to 25 percent drop out of the pool for various reasons; higher education, marriage, and re-location. This leaves just 35 percent of graduates in the available pool.
Though the BPO industry is just five years old in India, its quick growth rate has brought with it many challenges, including
Unavailability of talent: According to the NASSCOM-McKinsey report, "India will need a 2.3 million IT and BPO workforce by 2010 to maintain its current market share. The supply projections indicate a potential shortfall of nearly 500,000 qualified employees - nearly 70 percent of which will be concentrated in the BPO industry."
Shortage of skilled talent: The industry requires niche skills like oral and written communication skills, domain and industry knowledge, and computer skills that are not abundantly available in the country. This limited talent pool is further stretched by the number of BPO companies across the country, thus increasing the supply and demand gap.
Cost of talent: Employees have many choices for employment and are often willing to move to different companies for a few dollars more. This has led to companies competing for talent based on compensation to create artificially high salary grades.
Inflexible education system: While each year millions graduate from the country's myriad colleges, many do not possess the skills required to be a successful and effective BPO professional. This is largely because the existing educational system does not allow skill building; the course structure is still theoretical in nature with limited scope for practical application.
To address this diminishing pool of candidates, Infosys created Project Genesis, a training initiative aimed at increasing the talent pool by creating employment opportunities in many cities in India. The training program equips students with required BPO skills and creates awareness of possible careers. Through this initiative, Infosys has access to a skilled talent pool, which has reduced the recruitment and training costs within our organization.
Genesis has four phases and was initially piloted in Karnataka. Phase one includes a skill level assessment and curriculum design. A skills assessment of the graduate pool in select colleges across the state was initiated to understand the competency baseline that existed and to identify the gaps. After multiple discussions with lecturers across colleges, the global skills enhancement curriculum was created. It contains modules on communication and analytical skills, corporate etiquette, basic computer skills, and how to build self confidence.
In phase two, a train the trainer workshop was conducted to help lecturers deliver the program. At the end of this rigorous training, lecturers were certified on the G.S.E curriculum so that they could not only train their students but also enhance the awareness of opportunities available in the BPO industry.
In phase three, a follow-up plan provides the identified academia representatives with a forum for real-time support through periodic reviews, assessments, and feedback on training methodologies. Periodic refresher training programs modify and change the curriculum as required as well as share new developments in the industry and employment data.
The final phase involves organizing job fairs for all those students who have successfully completed and have been GSE certified. This phase was conducted for the first time last year in January. The initiative was piloted in one southern Indian state and then extended to other states, including Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Orissa, and Tamil Nadu.
The vision behind Project Genesis was to create a suitably trained talent pool that would be available not only to Infosys but also to other BPO companies. This initiative is running in four different states. The number of graduates who got short listed in the job fair has also increased 24 percent from 2006 to 2007.
No new program is implemented without some challenges. Getting buy in from the academia on the required curriculum change took some time. A team dedicated to Genesis started to work on the idea one year before the program launched. During this timeframe, the team constantly interacted with the various colleges to convince them of the advantages of the initiative. The various state governments have had a huge role in the success of the initiative; however, convincing government officials to help fund the initiative was a challenge. Today, Infosys is invited by state governments all over the country to launch the initiative in their region.
For the program to work, Infosys needed other BPO companies to climb on board. There was skepticism and the question, "what's in it for me?" It took months of persuasion from the team to convince other BPO companies to participate in the job fairs.
Infosys has trained 1,167 lecturers on "Global Skills Enhancement Curriculum" in 451 colleges. More than 12,000 students have enrolled in the training program and 1,600 have been offered jobs through job fairs in the last 12 months alone.