A skill assessment company, MeritTrac, designs tests to evaluate abilities, skills and knowledge for corporate, academia and individual customers since 2000 has assessed over three million candidates for more than 150 clients cutting across industry sectors like IT, BPO, BFSI, engineering, FMCG, healthcare, retail, manufacturing, PSUs and education among others.
How did MeritTrac come into being?
MeritTrac started in 2000 as a skill assessment company catering to BPO and IT companies. As skill levels go up, it has become imperative for companies to conduct skills tests before recruitment in order to ensure quality. So we offered to design and roll out the tests for them across the country. MeritTrac is totally into testing and not into training and placements.
What are the criteria you have set for assessments?
Assessments fall into four broad areas:
- Communication skills like written and spoken English.
- Inherent skills and abilities, analytical thinking, problem solving ability, learning ability, process orientation, etc.
- The domain, that is, accounting, technology, engineering, and so on. We do tests across domains. We have tests in around 200 technology areas, 20 engineering areas, and 20 to 30 areas in accounting.
The fourth area is the behavioural orientation. We do not conduct psychometric testing, only orientation tests. We categorise candidates depending on their inputs in fields of interests like customer service, sales, etc.
How are the tests conducted? Who are your clients?
The tests are designed by a team of designers led by Dr Natrajan, a reputed name in the field of skill testing. All the tests are delivered in both online and offline modes, under supervision. The online tests are delivered using OnTrac, a web-based testing engine. Our delivery team has administered tests in over 120-130 cities in India throughout the country. IT giants like Microsoft, HP, Wipro have used these tests. In the non-IT sector, we have several customers like the ICICI bank, Hindustan Petroleum, HCPA, ITC, etc.
Please tell us about the initiative ‘TracSkills’.
A recent industry survey has revealed that only 15 % of the graduates in the country are fit to be employed. So what happens to the rest 85 %? MeritTrac’s individual certification programme TracSkills seeks to bridge this gap by assessing candidates across the country and providing structured feedback on their ’employable skills’ – those skills that are critical to performing well in any job. The programme started two years back.
Apart from over 150 client companies across sectors, the programme also has partnership with academic institutions like Bharathiar University, Visvesvaraya Technological University, among others to help the academia understand, improve and demonstrate employable skills of students.
TracSkills is being used in the IT, BPO, services and MBA talent pools. The IT TracSkills is now called the NACTECH (Nasscom Assessment of Competence (NAC) test) and was launched a month back in collaboration with the NASSCOM.
A recent industry survey has revealed that only 15 % of the graduates in the country are fit to be employed. So what happens to the rest 85 %? MeritTrac’s individual certification programme TracSkills seeks to bridge this gap by assessing candidates across the country and providing structured feedback on their ’employable skills’ – those skills that are critical to performing well in any job
How can a single test assess candidates coming from various institutions and courses?
This test normalises scores across universities. It doesn’t matter which university you come from, what matters is your score on this common test. TracSkills measures your industrial rating, which includes basic communication skills, analytical thinking, learning ability, and process orientation. It also includes some basic domain understanding. For example if the candidate is from computer science background, he or she may be asked questions on programming, data structure, etc. So basically, you are tested for what you know, which is a different approach from being tested for what you don’t know.
This programme works on two philosophies. One is called ‘Playing to the strength’. Typically, interviews play to your weaknesses and you are asked what you don’t know. For example, if a person’s language skill is not too good, then you try to find out if his accounting skills are good and take him on that job. We help in identifying the strengths and then mapping them to the industry’s requirements.
The second thing is what we call the ‘Shortest distance to employability’. We give short duration training in the field a candidate is comfortable with, rather than training him for a longer duration in something which he does not know. That is the shortest distance to employability.
Are there any plans to tap the schools also?
Communication and analytical skills cannot be learned overnight by a student pursuing graduation. In order to enhance employability, one needs to start early so that the foundation is strong. We want to take MeritTrac to schools to check the gaps in skills. This way we will be able to predict a class 7 student’s employability, 10-20 years down the line. Currently, this predictability is not there in our education system. MeritTrac can also help the student figure out his or her aptitude.
Do you foresee any challenges in taking MeritTrac to schools.
MeritTrac does not propose to change the existing systems in schools, but supplement it. Let students who are interested take the test, and in the next five-six years it will start showing results. Gradually, more and more schools will pick up the process and thereby help students make a choice.
Please tell us about the challenges faced in the initial days.
The initial few years were spent proving ourselves since we were representing a new concept. The industry had never heard of skill assessments, so we were instantly written-off. But now, people understand the need for assessment and realise that it is a science that requires expertise. The greatest achievement has been that MeritTrac now has a brand value.
Does MeritTrac enter into partnerships with governments?
Partnerships with governments are important. In 2001, we worked with Andhra Pradesh government on the Graduate Employability Test where McKinsey was also involved. In 2006 we had partnership with Karnataka government on something called the Computer Skills Proficiency Test (CSPT). We have also worked with West Bengal governemnt.
Please elaborate on the CSPT.
CSPT was an interesting partnership with the government of Karnataka. With the e-Governance initiative of the government, micro-finance jobs came up in a big way. There was lot of push for rural BPOs, which meant a heavy requirement of computer skills in Tier 3 and 4 towns. However, we figured out that there was no certification. So with the help of IT department of the state government, we launched the Computer Skills Proficiency Test. Candidates could take the test and obtain a certificate which will help them get a job.
Are there any plans to branch into e-Learning?
I believe e-Learning is an important tool in the process of self-learning. But it is not an end in itself. At the end of the day we have to see what the person has learnt and whether that knowledge is being used to gain something.
The end use of knowledge is employability. And we at MeritTrac facilitate the learning process and help the person gain employment.