National Software Testing Academy looks to address UK talent shortage

3 mins read

The S&A Transform Group (The S&A Group), which recently invested over £1.5 million into three new specialised apprenticeship training academies in tech, science, and business, is expanding its software testing academy across the UK.

The decision comes in response to a rapidly growing crisis that is engulfing the software testing industry, where there are simply not enough quality assurance testers, release and delivery managers and site reliability engineers (SREs) maintaining modern cloud infrastructures.

The crisis was exacerbated through the pandemic when many UK companies were forced to rapidly accelerate and advance their digital technology programmes to ensure business continuity and adapt to the global shift. Consequently, many companies were rolling out technology programmes without robust enough testing, and with that came software defects and systems failures affecting millions of customers.

Software testing is crucial to how every single piece of technology functions and operates and ensures that all the software that drives our devices and tech works and functions smoothly. When a software error emerges after release, rather than through robust testing, the impact can have catastrophic consequences.

The Software Testing Academy will commence its next national programme in June and will last circa 18 months for those wishing to embark on an apprenticeship and career in software testing, or quality engineering. The academy is open to new entrants or to those who are currently employed and wanting to upskill and reskill through the apprenticeship levy scheme. Career changing skills can be learnt through innovative training approaches, such as an immersive, upfront fulltime ‘bootcamp’ of rapid learning. Thus, enabling employers to benefit from their new employees testing skills almost immediately.

Chief Product & Innovation Officer for The S&A Group, Laurence Martin (pictured), who constructed the academy and course syllabus, and has led the previous Manchester based testing academies, believes that the S&A Software Testing Academy programme is ground-breaking in its approach. 

“Apprentices joining our software testing academy will gain both the ISTQB Foundation and the L4 Apprenticeship qualifications, which are Internationally recognised, with programming skills and test frameworks to test right across the software development cycle, equipping apprentices with both theory and skills to become an accredited test engineer.

“The hands-on coding and test automation exercises are backed by numerous innovative samples and the course theory is uniquely filled with more than 1,100 software testing-related components that we have built specifically for our apprenticeships. Our front loaded bootcamp includes a substantive team project to test a proprietary software system so that when our apprentices enter their workplace environment, they have already war-gamed actual real-world scenarios.”

Martin has been involved in tech and software development for nearly 30 years, developing software programmes for other programmers for more than 20 of those years, before becoming an IT trainer and contractor across multiple industries as an engineer and mentor. He is now Chief Product & Innovation Officer at The S&A Group, a challenger consulting firm. The S&A Transform Group, a sister company of The S&A Academy, specialises in large-scale business, technology, and digital transformation.

In a recent survey, it was revealed that 85% of US CEOs and 69% of UK CEOs could be leaving their businesses open to reputational and financial risks by releasing insufficiently tested software, with over 77% stating that software failures had harmed their company’s reputation in the past five years. Worryingly, over 79% of IT professionals admitted that as much as 40% of software goes to market without sufficient testing. More than 34% of CEOs also cited under-investment in software testing personnel.

According to Darren Coomer, CEO and founder of The S&A Group, “The reputational damage that can impact a company from a software failure is immense. When a major software failure happens, the adverse effects on a company’s customers means everyone, including the Board, will be held accountable. Not only can this severely impact a business in terms of reputation, but it can also mean severe financial losses, regulatory fines, and even personal fines against accountable individuals.”

Coomer also highlighted the issue of offshoring of ‘software testing’, whereby a small part of the software testing is done in the UK and then the rest is outsourced to other countries in an attempt to minimise costs.

“In the end, this often becomes a false economy and has serious implications for IT projects. We wanted to reduce businesses reliance on offshore resources and high-cost consultancies, so we focused our Academy business on offering our professional software testing courses nationally. Thus, enabling UK companies to ‘grow their own’ software test talent utilising our free recruitment and apprenticeship training.”

The S&A Academy has three specialised training academies: Technology & Digital, Science & Laboratory, and Business & Leadership. Each provides personalised professional training and apprenticeships, as well as bespoke course creation and certification programmes for global corporate clients. The training academy is a sister company of The S&A Group, one of the UK’s leading challenger consulting firms, which specialises in large-scale business, technology, and digital transformation.

Head of The S&A Technology Academy, Dean Smith oversees the commercial and apprenticeship training products.

“The course is designed to constantly evolve. It incorporates relevant academic principles and qualifications alongside industry-standard knowledge, professional practices, tools, and testing technologies. It has been co-designed by industry experienced testers, professional instructors and 3rd party professional testing organisations. Our unique approach equips apprentices with soft skills and mind-set awareness training, which is reinforced through activities and team exercises to produce well-rounded, multi-skilled, work-ready software test engineers.”