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Standard competency exam for BPO agents launched

Posted on: March 8, 2010

Standard competency exam for BPO agents launched

By Anna Valmero
First Posted 14:18:00 03/08/2010

Filed Under: business, Employment, Employment Agencies

MANILA, Philippines—The Business Processing Association of the Philippines (BPA/P) launched Monday a national competency test to streamline the recruitment of applicants in the $7.2 billion outsourcing industry, officials said.

BPA/P’s national competency test (BNCT), which is an assessment program to generate industry-ready talents for the country’s IT-BPO industry, includes test components for learning ability, English language proficiency, perceptual speed and accuracy, computer literacy and service orientation, said its chief executive and president Oscar Sanez.

“If we qualify what we are looking for in the industry, then it would let us get better results of what we want—thus increasing the hiring efficiency of BPO firms, ensuring that college graduates would have a job to look forward to and then, firms have a first-screen at the applicants and individual companies can determine the competency levels acceptable for them while applicants have a feedback on their skills,” said Sanez.

“Basically, this exam would enable us to target our applicants out of the 450,000 graduates we have each year. This is an entry-level test not only for college graduates and career shifters which would streamline the recruitment process both for the applicant and the hiring firms,” said Jamea Garcia, executive director for talent development.

BNCT is a two-and-a-half hour computer-aided exam and would be tailored-fit for each and every examinee, meaning the set and difficulty of questions are unique such that the program adapts to the competency of the BPO agent taking the exam, said Oscar Arguelles, director and founder of Assessment Analytics, the provider of the BNCT software.

“The program generates more difficult questions as you get a correct answer and lowers the difficulty if you get incorrect answers. There is no passing score but each of the skill sets are scored in terms of percentile—whether you belong to the upper or lower group of all who took the exam. The exam also gives feedback on your basic and behavioral skills if you are fit for the industry,” said Liza Manalo-Mapagu, managing director of Assessment Analytics.

Since it is computer-aided, the exam has no “test-recall factor,” is unique per individual and, is secured by proctors to make sure that there is no cheating or leakage in the exams, said Manalo-Mapagu.

Aside from giving feedback to the student’s or the agent’s competency level, the academe can also get inputs to develop the campus-based bridging programs to ensure graduates are industry-ready, said Sanez.

The exam results would allow government education partners to come in and formulate an industry-focused curriculum thus making the supply of applicants match the demand of skills in the BPO industry, he explained.

To take the exam, interested students may register through their respective colleges and universities for online reservation. Exams can be taken in ADEPT (Advanced English Proficiency Testing)-certified schools and authorized testing centers with Internet connection nationwide.

After the exam, score reports are immediately emailed to students or agents, together with their profiles. These will also be posted in real-time at the portal for BPO companies to view for recruitment purposes, said Arguelles.

“The portal makes recruitment or fishing of candidates more efficient. Instead of taking ten exams to apply in ten firms, an applicant only needs to take this exam. In turn, it would reduce the time needed by BPO companies to have a first-screen of applicants because they are looking at the profiles also in the portal. This would allow the companies to move into the second level of hiring because they saved up time in the screening,” added Manalo-Managu.

Presently, the BNCT would undergo a norm validation study until April 5 and would be rolled out April 12.

The Commission on Information and Communications Technology (CICT) chaired by ray Anthony-Chua III provided seed funding of P5 million to allow the first 10,000 applicants to take the exam for free. Per individual, the examination fee is P500, said Sanez.

“This (BPO) industry relies on human capital and with this, we could continue to recruit more talent needed to serve the global community and continue to grow,” said Roxas-Chua III.

By year-end, BPA/P eyes to grow by 26 percent and earn revenues of up to $9.2 billion through the help of the BCNT, he added.


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