The University of British Columbia is partnering with Vancouver’s QA Labs to give the local software industry a boost of testing and quality assurance expertise.

The school will offer a specialization track in testing and quality assurance as part off the software engineering certificate program

with 160 hours of courses developed with QA Labs, a local software quality assurance company.

Wayne Peters, program leader for software engineering at UBC, says the new specialization, beginning in January, includes courses on configuration management, strategic test analysis and advanced test automation.

“”The quality assurance people tend to be the ‘policeman’ on a project, making sure things are adequately tested and everything is up to quality,”” says Peters. “”If they want to play that kind of a role on a project they would need the quality assurance track.””

Peters says the specialization was developed in response to industry demand, and a “”terrific volume”” of people looking for more focused quality assurance and testing training.

“”There’s a need in industry to update the quality assurance and testing standards, and they saw this as a way to produce people who are able to fulfill these new roles,”” says Peters.

Trevor Atkins, vice president of operations at QA Labs, says they’ve been working with UBC since 2000 on their curriculum, and began talking to them in January about doing something bigger.

“”I think this is going to be of benefit to a lot of people that may not otherwise take the software engineering certificate, because it (focuses) more on the project management and development side,”” says Atkins.

While Kwantlen University College and the British Columbia Institute of Technology offer some courses, Atkins says they tend to be longer-haul and not the part-time, course at a time option offered by UBC.

Atkins says the curriculum QA Labs is developing with UBC will be designed to be highly practical, and relevant to someone already working in the software industry.

“”There will be a higher focus on in-class exercises and homework assignments that students can take back to their companies,”” he says.

In addition to the recognition of their expertise, Atkins says developing the course material with UBC will help them capture some of their own best practices, raise the skill level of the local testing community and possibly provide future employees down the road.

However, within the local software community, some question the need for training more people in quality assurance.

David Koo, vice president of software development for Vancouver’s Ekkon Technologies, says having some knowledge of quality assurance is important for a software developer, but at Ekkon quality assurance and development are really two separate areas.

“”I’d say the experience in software development lifecycle is more what we look for than experience in quality assurance, though quality assurance is definitely part of that,”” says Koo.

Still, Koo says he sees value in having courses that focus on quality assurance, something he says has been lacking. A graduate of Simon Fraser University, Koo says quality assurance wasn’t a focus there.

“”Quite often it’s just one of those things you pick up and learn through experience,”” says Koo. “”A lot of them started out in applications support or another area and migrated to quality assurance. It’s definitely not seen as a core discipline.””

At Vancouver’s Intrinsyc Software International Inc., human resources manager David Desormeaux is currently in the midst of a recruitment campaign. It won’t include quality assurance though. The company has just one person who focuses solely on quality assurance, with that function largely being a responsibility of the development staff themselves.

Desormeaux says he’s been recruiting for a number of years with different software companies and he’s never had trouble filling a quality assurance position.

“”It’s an easy position to transition to out of university, or if you maybe have technical expertise in a certain area,”” says Desormeaux. “”I have resumes coming in all the time from quality assurance people I can’t use because we’re not currently looking for them.””

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