Invest NI takes forward Software Testers initiative

Picture: Michael Cooper

Pictured (L-R) are Anne Beggs of Invest NI and Connor Smyth from Belfast-based Kainos with Philip Hanna from Queen’s University and Ian McChesney from the University of Ulster.

Representatives from Queen’s University, the University of Ulster and the software sector were brought together recently in Invest Northern Ireland’s headquarters to take forward an important graduate skills initiative for the IT industry in Northern Ireland.

The initiative relates to an identified industry need for graduates with the skills and experience required to work in the internationally focused software testing and quality assurance sector.

Earlier this year, Invest NI facilitated discussions between companies and both universities during which quality assurance and testing professionals set out what they felt needs to be covered in these specialist areas in IT courses.

At this latest session, both universities set out an impressive range of actions designed to address industry demands for improved software testing skills in IT graduates and to promote better understanding of the range of job opportunities in the area of software testing.

Companies such as Citi, SQS, Kainos, Liberty IT, Allstate and Kana welcomed plans for the introduction of a new specialised module in software testing at Queen’s University from September 2012. The group also heard details of a new programme of guest lectures that has been started at the University of Ulster, focusing on software testing.

Alastair Hamilton, Invest NI’s Chief Executive, said: “The ICT sector is a key driver of our economy and it’s vital that we support the development of core competencies in our graduates to ensure that Northern Ireland remains strong in this area.”

Both universities expressed a clear commitment to increase the emphasis on software testing within their IT courses in project work, placements and career talks.

Dr Phil Hanna, Senior Lecturer School of Electronics, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, QUB, said: “I’m delighted to announce the introduction of a new module in software testing at Queen’s, which will make a significant contribution to addressing the skills gap that has been identified in the area of software testing.”

Dr Ian McChesney, Senior Lecturer School of Computing and Mathematics at Ulster, said: “The collaboration between industry and academia that has been facilitated by Invest NI has proved very effective in creating a solution to the problem of this skills gap among our IT graduates.”

At the meeting representatives of leading companies in the software sector indicated that the sector was committed to playing its part in building software testing skills within the IT graduate pool by offering time and expertise, helping with access to industry-relevant test tools, and inputting to course materials and placement design.

Connor Smyth, Kainos, said: “The response of both universities has been very positive and in a short space of time both Queen’s and the University of Ulster have put in place new elements that will go a long way to addressing this skills issue. We also recognise that the sector must play its part in helping develop IT graduates with first-class testing and quality assurance skills.”