JEDI and PQA (Professional Quality Assurance) have created an exciting partnership that has 10 Aboriginal people trained and currently working as software testers here in New Brunswick. Their 14 weeks of classroom training took place in Fredericton and, on January 4th, they began their 8 week internships with various PQA clients. The successful candidates have come from many communities in NB and Quebec, including Elsipogtog, Esgenoopetitj, Gesgapegiag, St. Mary’s, Tobique and Woodstock. They were chosen for the course because they have logic and problem-solving skills, the ability to communicate, a basic understanding of computers, and a willingness to learn.
PQA has a plan for growth and it involves working with Aboriginal people and communities across Canada. PQA has been in business for 18 years providing quality assurance and software testing services to companies around the world. They are headquartered in Fredericton, NB but also have offices in Vancouver, Halifax, Moncton, and Calgary.
“The overall idea is to create a company, Aboriginal owned, led and staffed, to do software testing,” says Keith McIntosh, Co-CEO, President and Founder of PQA. “The idea is to create a pool of resources, across Canada, in as many Aboriginal communities as possible, to create one large company or co-operative of companies to do outsource testing. There is an opportunity there. I run a testing company and I want to create work in Canada, the challenge is finding enough people to do it. I’ve learned about some of the challenges being faced by the Aboriginal communities, getting enough work in remote communities in particular. This concept works really well, all we need is an internet connection and people who know how to test software.”
Keith has a vision. He sees this project as the opportunity to not only create viable, for-profit businesses that are owned by Aboriginal people, but also to create some opportunities for people who may not want to leave their community and who want real jobs and prospects to improve their lives. He sees this as a way to keep more jobs in Canada that may have been traditionally outsourced to countries like India, which has a large educated population.
“The people taking this course, there is nothing stopping them from doing their own thing, at the end of the course,” says Keith. “They can say that they want to do something on their own or they can say that they want to go work for a company like Skillsoft or IBM. That’s fine, but we hope to be able to talk them into seeing that the collective strength is bigger. If they can see the collective good of what we want to do, they will stay and be part of that.”
“I hope that these students will work together as a group of 10 to be the first 10 people in a new company,” says Keith. “In order to be a successful company in the space that we are trying to compete in, especially when you are competing against offshore, you have to be big enough, it’s not a 1 or 2 person job; volume and size matter.”
JEDI and PQA are in talks to start training another group of Aboriginal software testers in the Spring of 2016. By the end of 2016, Keith hopes that there will be a group of 25 people working in an organization in New Brunswick on one of the reserves. The plan is to start one Aboriginal software testing company, get everyone comfortable with how things work, and then if someone wants to create a sister company in another community, there is lots of opportunity to grow and expand.
“I want to create a role-model eco-system that says you can be in IT and you can make money and you don’t have to go and work for someone else, you can work in your own community to do it,” says Keith. “You can work in Toronto from St. Mary’s First Nation if you have an internet connection. Hopefully, we can get young people excited about it and want to do it. They won’t be working for me, we’re going to create companies that are for profit and are owned by Aboriginal people.”