Launch of Fourth Software Testers’ Academy

Employment and Learning Minister Dr Stephen Farry and Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister Arlene Foster today launched the fourth cohort of the Software Testers’ Academy.

The Academy, which has been in high demand for the previous three cohorts, aims to provide graduates with the skills and experience required to take up exciting new opportunities in the Information and Communications Technology industry. Software testing and quality assurance is increasingly a key growth area in this internationally focused sector.

Speaking at the launch Minister Farry said: “Now in its fourth cohort the Software Testers’ Academy continues to be an excellent example of how government is working collaboratively to improve the skills of graduates and assist them into employment. Graduates are learning skills that our employers need in this increasingly important sector for the future of our economy. The results of the Academies to date have been excellent, with 96% of trainees from diverse academic backgrounds securing employment in software testing.

"I would encourage any unemployed graduate to consider a career in the vibrant and growing local ICT sector. The Academy Model has proved to be continually successful with Academies now running across a range of sectors such as cloud technology, data analytics, and financial services.”

The Software Testers’ Academy has been designed by 20 of Northern Ireland’s top ICT companies with support from the Department for Employment and Learning and Invest Northern Ireland under the Assured Skills initiative. It was developed collectively between government and the ICT sector and will be delivered by South Eastern Regional College (SERC) and Belfast Metropolitan College.

Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister Arlene Foster said: “As we seek to build upon our growing reputation in the ICT sector, initiatives such as the Software Testers’ Academy will play a vital role in matching the skillsets of our graduates with the needs of the industry. The success of the Academy demonstrates how government, academia and local companies can work together to deliver results in this key sector. This engagement has been a critical factor in the Academy’s success and has ensured that by identifying and responding to the requirements of potential investors, Northern Ireland increasingly becomes the location of choice for ICT and digital companies.

"Our digital sector now forms the ‘backbone’ of a diverse range of industries in Northern Ireland, including financial services, connected health and the creative industries and it is playing a pivotal role in helping to make our region more productive and internationally competitive.

“My Department, through Invest NI, will continue to work closely with the Department for Employment and Learning and the sector as we strive to enhance our highly skilled ICT workforce, attract high-quality investment and promote economic growth. I would urge any eligible graduates to explore the opportunities presented by the Software Testers’ Academy.”

Reminding employers of the work being taken forward to support the ICT sector, Minister Farry stated: “I remain committed to working closely with other government departments, employers and our local further education colleges and universities, through the ICT Sector Implementation Group, to develop and implement the ICT Skills Action Plan. The Plan, which I launched in 2012, continues to produce a number of positive results in support of the Northern Ireland ICT sector. For example, our local universities are now offering a range of provision that means we have a 60% projected increase in available computing talent from higher education over the next four years.

“In addition to the focus on the traditional academic routes into the sector we have broken new ground by introducing a number of more vocational routes, such as the Public/Private ICT Apprenticeship Scheme which has just launched its third cohort and demonstrates a real, viable alternative pathway to becoming an ICT professional.”

The Software Testers’ Academy targets HND, degree or equivalent graduates from any discipline and will offer an intensive 16-week training programme, including a company placement, to 36 successful applicants. Participants will gain an industry recognised qualification and a potential offer of employment.

Applications to the Software Testers’ Academy will close on 29 August 2014 and the training programme for successful applicants will start during October and run until February 2015.