A year 2005 Nasscom-McKinsey report says only 25 per cent of technical graduates and 10-15 per cent of general graduates are suitable for employment in offshore IT and BPO industries, respectively. This may prove to be a glitch in the India's ITeS-BPO success story.
The problem, says Siddhartha Mukherjee, head of Cognizant Technology Solutions's Kolkata operations, is not so much with leading universities and colleges.
"In the last 10 years or so, several hundred new engineering colleges have sprung up. It's the increasing number of students coming out of the neo and non-academic managed colleges that contribute to the 'under-employability'," he says.
The other problem that does not just relate to call centres is the lack of soft skills, generally used to mean poor English language skills.
Acclaris (India), which runs a BPO with 300 employees in Kolkata working in the areas of health claims, reimbursement adjudication, finance and accounting verticals, recruits fresh graduates.
An American accent is not a prerequisite here, but the ability to write and speak English is. Kalyan Kar, managing director, Acclaris (India), has found that hard to come by. "After all, what can you expect in a state (West Bengal) where a number of students start learning English only from Class V? " he asks.
The other problem is that while private institutes offering voice and accent training or courses in software development are dime a dozen there are only a handful that teach the combination of analytical skills, communications, project and time management subjects needed in next-generation BPOs like Acclaris (India).
Locally, in West Bengal, there is Globsyn Technologies' BPO Academy that has specific courses for BPO functions like tech-support, healthcare, and financial services.
Bikram Dasgupta, chairman and CEO, Globsyn, says he has plans to offer courses for the retail, biotechnology and broadcast sectors next in line to be outsourced.
There are also some others like Hero Mindmine, which offers an intensive BBA degree with specialisation in BPO operations, NIIT PlanetWorkz's Foundation in IT-Enabled Services, and Shradha HRD, which runs a course in 'team lead development for call centres'. As for Nasscom-benchmarked training, there is the certification programme for frontline management in ITeS-BPO, which offers three-day team lead and quality analyst programmes.