Don’t worry about people stealing an idea. If it’s original, you will have to ram it down their throats. – Howard Aiken
If you have followed my career, you know that last year I left a job that I loved to start a testing practice with Doran Jones. Besides wanting to finally build the software testing business that I’ve always wanted based on the principles of Context Driven Testing, I also had an opportunity to turn the work I’d been doing with Per Scholas through the Software Testing Education Program into a functioning consultancy. Through working with my partners at Per Scholas, I have had a good look into the current efforts to fight poverty through increasing skills and education, as well as how funding works in the public sector for organizations like Per Scholas.
I have intentionally not spoken in public about the non-profit world and my experience in dealing with the public sector because I want Doran Jones to be judged by the quality of the work we do – not the social story of STEP and the UDC. But recently, thanks to my pal, Anne-Marie Charett, I got to give a talk at the Australian Computer Society about our partnership with Per Scholas, and I realized that I do have something to say – and this is my meager attempt to put some of those ideas to pen and how I think we at Doran Jones are doing our bit to change things for the better. Bear in mind, I am NOT an expert in public policy so all ideas, generalizations, and conclusions are my own and based entirely on my brief (but very intense) experience in the world of workforce development, non-profits, and public funding.
I firmly believe that to effectively fight and break the cycle of poverty and meet the growing demands of a technically skilled workforce, there needs to be a fundamental shift in the current efforts in the private and public sectors. In my limited public sector experience, the focus of workforce development programs has been primarily on training for open roles that are being advertised by companies, resume writing, and other career assistance services. In concert with this, there is a concerted effort to affect “outcomes” through influencing policy and the legal framework through which organizations conduct themselves and Corporate Social Responsibility.
While those activities are important and vital to solving systemic problems related to the cycle of poverty in America, they do not address the immediate needs of employers and potential employees in regards to getting a job and building a career. It is my belief and experience that workforce development programs need to address three activities: core skill development, re-engineering of Human Resources, and public sector pressure on contractors and consumers of their services, to successfully meet the demands of employers.
STEP Graduation at Per Scholas
Information technology is a dynamic industry with rapidly changing language and ideas. Too many IT training programs focus on a shallow understanding of current technology trends and not development of core skills like design, critical thinking, communication, and creative problem solving. The Doran Jones Software Testing Education Program (STEP) provides a practical understanding of working with technology along with hands-on experience testing software in real project environments. Our focus on strategy, heuristics, and communication give students core skills and the confidence to do on the job regardless of the technology environment or industry.
Corporate Human Resources departments are gatekeepers for the sources of candidate flow onto hiring manager’s desks. Workforce development programs must be integrated into the process and I believe, become part of the core HR operating model. We have successfully adapted STEP to map directly onto client hiring processes therefore expanding their choices for candidates for testing jobs, and integrated workforce development as a core HR process at Doran Jones. As we expand our approach to new clients, I believe that workforce development will become not just an extra source of candidates, but replace a significant part of the traditional HR operating model.
Lastly, pressure must be applied from the public sector to make sure private entities that contract with and use public utilities and services use US citizens that enter the work force through non-traditional means. Doran Jones is working with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the Department of Veterans Affairs to integrate STEP training into their Accelerated Learning Program pipeline to make sure that organizations are incentivized to work with workforce development programs. As well, our UDC model will create 100s of IT jobs (500 to start in the Bronx) in the US that would ordinarily be staffed offshore and we are negotiating partnerships with three other cities to deploy the same model and put Americans back to work in IT careers.
Having spent 100s of hours in meetings with foundations, City, State, and Federal Government agencies to talk about how we improve outcomes for workforce development, I believe this is a model that can move the needle on the non-systemic causes of poverty. I look forward to learning more and working with my partners at Per Scholas to see if software testing really CAN save the world – or maybe just our little part of it.