Aboriginal Staffed Software Testing Company Starts with the Basics

Written by Cara Smith, Huddle Today (read original)

platoteammarch2016

FREDERICTON, NB - Keith McIntosh has a vision for software testing in New Brunswick.

The co-CEO of Professional Quality Assurance Ltd. (PQA Testing) is helping to both localize software testing to the province and provide aboriginal communities with training and employment opportunities.

Professional Aboriginal Testing Organization Inc. (PLATO), named after the founder of the first institution of higher learning in the Western world, is a software testing company which provides outsourced testing services delivered by aboriginal people to clients throughout North America. The company’s employees are trained through a comprehensive program developed by PQA Testing and funded in part by the Joint Economic Development Initiative (JEDI).

Keith McIntosh says software testing has struggled in New Brunswick because of the lack of workers trained in the field here.

“You can’t go out and hire experienced testers here because they don’t exist,” he said. “In the IT industry in New Brunswick, we never have enough people … that’s a problem. It keeps us from growing.”

McIntosh describes the company as a win-win solution for both the IT industry and aboriginal communities who are in need of training and employment but want to stay in the province.

“A lot of software testing work goes offshore because we can’t find the people to do it,” McIntosh said. “We don’t have enough hands, it’s expensive. If we can teach a group of people how to test, do it at home, do it on reserves, we can compete price-wise, we can compete service-wise.”

In the fall of 2015, PLATO completed its first successful pilot, resulting in nine aboriginal graduates now working in the PQA Testing office. Two more programs are starting in the beginning of April in Eel Ground and near St. Mary’s First Nation with 30 students now enrolled. The programs guarantee a job in software testing for successful graduates.

McIntosh says the ultimate goal is to implement the programs in other provinces such as British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Alberta and once a solid base of workers is established for each area, allow for working from home.

“We have a plan to run ten courses in New Brunswick over the next two years, which will give us about 150 people working in the First Nations communities,” McIntosh said. “Everybody benefits from it. The people taking the course benefit and they are now employed. This is an entry point into the IT world … hopefully we’ll start a bigger trend and everyone will want to do this”

McIntosh says the same concepts in place in the program could help not only aboriginal communities in New Brunswick but rural communities as well. He hopes PLATO will lead by example and inspire similar programs to be developed.

“As corporate Canada, as Canadian businesses, we need to think seriously about how we help change the situation that we’ve put ourselves in here.”