New Delhi / Mumbai: As a talent crunch forces companies to recruit from unknown colleges and smaller cities, companies that need to hire in large numbers have been accrediting more institutions on their own, devising complex formulae that gauge everything from students’ competence to the college infrastructure.
Tech giant Tata Consultancy Services Ltd (TCS) said on Monday that it has accredited 400 technical colleges so far, a precursor to its on-campus placements. India’s largest software services company, with a staff of more than 94,000, hired 32,000 new employees last fiscal year, roughly one-third on campuses. The company said it makes no difference to its accreditation if the college has the approval of the government-run regulatory body, the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE).
“We believe in our own accreditation,” Thomas Simon, vice-president for human resources in the company, said on the sidelines of a press conference. “We have gone to colleges such as Amity Business School without AICTE approval and accredited them.”
Amity’s chancellor Atul Chauhan, who has tussled with AICTE repeatedly, welcomed the companies’ interest.
“It is because these companies realized they have to re-train students who they recruit,” he said. “With accreditation, the company does not have to do that as it can give feedback on syllabus.”
AICTE has had an uneasy relationship with private colleges, which it is meant to regulate. Around 6,000 private colleges function with the regulatory body’s approval. An unknown number function without its approval. AICTE member-secretary K. Narayana Rao said companies are unlikely to waste too many resources on schools it had already bypassed. “Accreditation involves huge amounts of money,” he noted.
For more than four years, Wipro Ltd also has had an accreditation system in place, with a list of 1,500 engineering campuses.
“We review institutes on this list on a regular basis and do a formal evaluation of those that we would like to hire from,” says Kannan Ramaiah, national campus manager for Wipro. But most of the institutes that make it to Wipro’s shortlist are AICTE approved.
Such “approval is one aspect of the background criteria that we consider,” he said. “The other is how long has the institute been in existence. Both these aspects matter.” Wipro is also interested in the institute’s placement record, its infrastructure and the number and quality of industry collaborations. “This gives us an idea of how relevant the institute’s training would be to the company’s requirements.”
Wipro’s accreditation system is also growing more formalized. Wipro visited 250 campuses last year and made 15,000 offers to the class of 2007. The company expects the number of recruitments to grow and expects to expand its list of campuses to keep pace with demand for labour.
The regulatory body of information technology and IT-related industries, National Association of Software and Services Companies (Nasscom), says while there is no formal proposal to have pan-industry accreditation, the issue has been discussed.
“While some of the larger IT players do have certain systems of accreditation, they are largely company-specific. There have been some discussions... about the need to have a standard accrediting system for engineering colleges,” said Rajdeep Sahrawat, vice-president, Nasscom. “The thinking is that institutes should be assessed based on output criteria, such as the percentages of graduates, placement records for the institute, et cetera, and not on input criteria, such as number of students or IT infrastructure.”
Infosys Technologies Ltd, the country’s second largest software company in terms of revenues and another big recruiter, said it does not accredit colleges. It has a campus programme with 300 colleges, also used to help hiring.
TCS mostly accredits engineering and technology colleges, rather than business schools, as most of its hiring is in technical areas. TCS’ hiring process has increasingly moved to smaller cities of India, or the so-called tier II and tier III cities. In the last fiscal year, TCS hired 70% of its new staff from these cities. “We don’t want to miss that slice,” said Simon.
TCS’ accreditation rates colleges on a 1,000 point scale. To make the cut, a college has to earn 750 points. The company’s team evaluates criteria such as faculty, library and number of scholars pursuing a doctorate. Students are evaluated through pop quizzes and pressure presentations.
Colleges which fail to make the grade are given a chance the next year. It does not hire from those not accredited.