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How graduate apprenticeship programs can be utilised to address the testing skills gap

(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/gpointstudio)

The speed at which new apps and software are being released is putting pressure on development and testing teams, and this means that there need to be new ways of working.

While development teams are often the priority, companies wanting to launch a new software or business app who don’t have an in-house team of testers can hire contractors; but hiring in experts with the right blend of skills can be costly.

There are roughly 21 million developers and about 4 million testers globally, with the developer-to-tester ratio in most companies standing at 1:4, or worse.

So, to fill the skills gap, technical trainees are being offered as a service, whether badged as an Academy as a Service (AaaS) or an Apprenticeship Training Agency, consultancies are providing businesses with access to ambitious graduates, who bring specific skills and technology best practices, without having to directly employ them.

AaaS is already used in the testing field and addresses the business risks associated with not having the right in-house testing skills. It provides an alternative to contract recruitment. The process is simple - a client decides on the number of testers required and they are trained by the software testing firm.

Although AaaS is not a new approach within the testing sector, it focuses on one area of expertise, offering specialist recruits in technical testing and software developers in testing. What sets AaaS apart in sourcing is that, in an employment hot spot like testing or security, companies may be struggling to get the right number of people with the specific skills for a project.

The service is sometimes used even though businesses can recruit directly, as graduate academies shoulder more of the risk for training and providing specific skills. This also means there is a higher degree of success when seeing a project through to conclusion as it is the service provider’s role to deliver the right skills at the right time. This offers peace of mind and takes away any of the concerns that might come with recruitment.

AaaS is just one of the major trends to watch out for in sourcing and procurement this coming year. The biggest trend in testing will be the continued move towards testers who have a much deeper technical competency including a strong coding focus. Many technical testers with a coding background are now moving into the Software Development/Design Engineer in Test (SDET) arena.

Organisations also use AaaS to replace contractors, which reduces costs and enables them to build their own capabilities from the ground up. AaaS employees all work under experienced specialists and mentors on client projects, to put those projects in safe hands and reduce risk.

The current IT skills gap, which is seeing 17 per cent more job opening currently than available workers in the market, is something that AaaS is helping to fill, by bringing new entrants into the technology and testing specific sector.

As it is not just a standard offering, AaaS can be tailored to suit a client’s specific needs or a project’s particular requirements. There are already a range of clients currently using Edge Testing’s AaaS, including global consulting organisations, UK airports, a telco provider, a brewing company and a leading financial services asset management firm. AaaS is used more by private companies than public sector due to the latter having to recruit using specific service frameworks and processes.

AaaS can also assist with digital transformation efforts, which require people to adapt to new types of working as graduates join a team, bringing more motivation and enthusiasm to support clients’ business growth and ambitions. AaaS can support clients in changing their teams’ mindsets – from traditional to the new world and digital transformation as the new way of working. This includes adopting new methodology approaches such as CI/CD and DevOps.

The cost benefits of using AaaS rather than recruiting directly are proven. AaaS is a simple, transparent one-off cost with no finder’s fee or transfer costs. That cost includes everything from the cost of the graduate’s training and expenses while on a client site to their mentoring and management.

Taking off

This move towards technical testers is being fuelled by the need to provide greater speed and agility (especially with the growth of DevOps). Software testing providers, like Edge Testing, will address this trend by enhancing their technology training programs to include a wider variety of requirements including DevOps fundamentals and agile based approaches to ensure they continue to offer the highest level of testers to their client portfolios.

Changes will no doubt affect the AaaS offering in terms of technology and methodologies. Individual organisations will have specific requirements so the training program that is delivered will have a core for all clients but needs to also be adaptable to cater for client specific skills, culture, etc. As it matures, AaaS will evolve, as with all software testing services, continuous improvement must be built in as a cornerstone of each service framework.

Recruiting via modern and graduate apprenticeships is taking off right now as it attracts, harnesses and retains talent, with the employee continuing their education whilst earning and building a career. AaaS often delivers test professionals straight out of training who are comparable with testers with many years of experience because graduates are put into roles alongside people with that level of experience. This means that by the time they graduate, they often perform better than people who have been in a software testing role for longer, thanks to the combination of training and hands-on experience. Our own clients have quoted anecdotally that Edge Academy graduates fit into their teams within a matter of weeks.

Nadia McKay, Testing Services Director, Edge Testing Solutions