Friday, 9 December 2011

Apprenticeship schemes at Test Conferences

A quick blog on a thought I have had.

I read an article today about how we could try and fix the IT skills gap that exists within the UK, this may also apply around the world, by getting young adults into apprenticeships. I have a view that for some people academia study is not for them and they would better suited to a vocational training course instead of a university degree. I never went to university and as such I do not have a degree. Do I feel as if I have missed out? I do not think so but I have not experienced university life so cannot be sure if I missed out something I may have liked.

I think within our profession of testing we have an opportunity to mentor and help create the next generation of testers (not discounting coders, architects) and allowing them to build their skills and knowledge up by learning from experience rather than studying non relevant subjects at university (How many universities do testing as a degree?) As Nassim Nicholas Taleb has said we as human beings are far better at learning from doing rather than from books. I have over the past year been mentoring two people in our craft of testing one is still on-going the other has managed to secure a tester role within a company, neither have been involved in testing beforehand. I feel we within our community should be trying to do this and encourage young adults by maybe taking them under our tutorage, it does not require a large amount of personal investment, a few hours per week. Or maybe within our companies we should all start looking at trying to introduce apprenticeship schemes, let’s try to tap into this vast resource who in my opinion feels they have been abandoned by the educational system.

On the other side I want to call out to those who run conferences, EuroSTAR, CAST, Lets test, UNICOM and say let’s advertise for young adults who may have an interest to come along as an apprentice for the length of the conference. They would not pay a fee but would be expected to produce a report on their thoughts and what actions they intend to take away for the future. I am have not finalized these thoughts but it would give these young adults to get engagement in a craft which I myself feel very passionate about.

Maybe the organizations that run the conferences could look at running an apprenticeship competition, vetting process. I am sure there are many vocational colleges (Both UK and around the world) who would be willing to get involved in this. It has the added effect that it will start to raise in the minds of the next generation of influential people the value of testing and put testing out there as a forwarding thinking craft that people want to get involved with.

What do others think?

I would especially love some feedback from conference organizers to see how feasible these ideas are.


  1. Organisations hire graduate Developers right? So I don't see how/why we can't hire graduate Testers or offer apprenticeships.

    I wrote a short blog post about Tester eXchanges a while back and some people had already tried to get it happening, maybe we all need to get together, focus and get things happening.

    Tester eXchange:

  2. Curious to know what kind of things you have been doing to mentor people? What will help them get that first testing job?

    RedGate have started hiring graduates with a view to train them up. Did you meet @whatie at EuroSTAR? He heads up the test team.

  3. Tony, I think that sounds like a really interesting idea. It seems that good testers are hard to find, the reason is probably because there are no structured entry level jobs and we are entirely dependent on natural testers learning for themselves.

    When I was a student I attended a Oracle User Group conference as a aide, in return for a free day at the conference I opened and closed doors and switched lights on and off before and after talks. It seems a shame that other conferences don't offer similar opportunities.

  4. Great idea, other technology organisations (e.g. IET) have been offering discounts to their conferences to students in full time education for quite sometime. It would be good to promote any conference opportunities/links through the governments apprenticeship programme. There could also be an opportunity to demonstrate and promote the benefits of apprenticeships, at the conferences.

    For large firms and the best paid jobs you need to get past the HR department and they are often only interested in degrees. The reason I was given for the previous government replacing the vocational qualification I did (Advanced GNVQ ) was the lack of recognition by HR departments in comparison to A Levels.

  5. thank you all the comments. I am so glad that others feel the same way. I may approach the Eurostar people and see what they say.

    Rosie have a look at my blog posts from April this year to see some of the things I have done when mentoring as a starter.

    The blocking point will normally be HR and it gets even worse when you start looking at the certification issues with regards to getting past the agencies and HR.

    On a side note I am know the company I am currently at are seriously looking at this - once things have been clarified more I may put together a post on this.