Matt | 14 August 2019

Developing Professional Test Engineers

1. Executive Summary

This document sets out a vision for developing Apprentices into professional Test Engineers through a targeted learning and development programme. People passing through the programme will increase their own skills and competencies in multiple disciplines and, importantly, organisational capability to help deliver systems solutions that underpin day to day business operations.

The programme has been developed in concert with (and rolled out to) a major systems integration company that was prepared to invest significantly in training to increase capability and extend its value proposition to new and existing clients alike.

The days of people having a single skill have long gone, so this cogent learning and development programme is based upon achieving multi-skilled competencies for people and organisations in order to maximise staff utilisation and reduce operational costs and staff attrition rates.

The programme comprises five learning and development streams, each of which seeks to imbue people with multi-layered competencies that are relevant to their experience and which provide extended capability within organisational teams – regardless of the development method they employ. The first stream defines a programme for apprentices and people new to testing, with the remaining four streams providing learning matched to career growth and the needs of a modern Test Practice. Each course within a stream has been mapped to SFIA, industry-accepted core principles, competencies and role types, as follows:

  1. Test Engineer for apprentices and entry level staff joining the Test Practice. Courses in this stream are aligned with the Government’s ‘Apprenticeship Programme’;

This stream will imbue staff with thy skills they need to manage and ensure the right approach to test specification, design, techniques, execution and reporting in:

  • Business testing
  • Early automation testing
  • Mobile app testing
  • Risk based approaches
  • Agile.

We recommend that the programme of learning be scheduled to run for around 2 years in order to allow students time to use their learning through classroom and on the job training to give them solid learning opportunities as the progress toward graduation. Within the stream is:

  • A targeted learning & development programme that provides the necessary foundation for each person to take as part of building their general test capability and career growth;
  • A series of optional developmental paths and routes to allow a Test Practice to fulfil its specialist technical needs by developing staff with cross-functional competencies.

For reference only, beyond the stream of learning defined here, there are a further four 2-year development streams to progress from Test Engineer through to Test Manager and Test Expert. Further details are available on request.

The following pages contain the training and support details for Apprentices and new entrants to develop into ‘Professional Test Engineers’.

2. Principles and Competencies of the Programme

Following our experience of learning and development programmes and research into what companies require of testing in the future, we have defined a series of ‘Principles and Competencies’ that fit the gamut and need of corporate skills required to deliver first-class systems that help underpin business operations, as follows:

principles of test enginering

3. The 5-Stream Programme

The professional Test Engineer career development programme contains five key streams, with each being rigorously designed and tested to reflect the principles and competencies that are key to success and growing capability within a Test Practice. Each stream interfaces seamlessly to the next to provide continuous investment in people and career growth:


3.1 The Five Key Streams

At the broadest level, each stream is designed to reflect modern test engineering principles, coupled with competencies that meet the needs of a Test Practice using varying development models, supported by capability from competent, multi-skilled individuals.

  1. The Test Engineer for apprentices and entry level staff embarking on a career in software testing, and for experienced staff from other disciplines who may be transferring in.
  2. The Senior Test Engineer with at least two years’ experience, who is ready to step up to using more advanced techniques, choosing to specialise or move to the early stages of team leadership.
  3. The Lead Test Engineer with at least four years’ experience, already specialising and needing to be ready for the demands of test management or increasingly complex technical roles.
  4. The Test Architect with at least five years’ experience, ready to make the jump to the business-critical role of defining and building test architectures for major programmes.
  5. The Test Expert who has at least 10-years’ experience of leading major programme delivery and organisational change and benefit.

3.2 The Test Engineer

The Test Engineer stream is designed for people with little or no experience of software testing, but who have expressed a desire to make it their career goal or who need testing experience as a second or third competency to support existing skills.

The programme is structured to meet the requirements of the Government’s Apprenticeship programme to qualify for funding.

3.2.1 The Apprentice to Test Engineer Roadmap

newstarter roadmap

The stream supports the key competencies of:

  • Business Testing
  • Agile Testing
  • Automated Testing
  • Programming
  • DevOps & Model Based Testing

As can be seen in Figure 1 – The Test Engineer Capability Roadmap, there is:

  • A series of mandatory courses
  • Several optional courses to suit early specialisms.

Note: Unless someone is transferring into a Test Practice who has no software testing experience, we envisage the Test Engineer role being the only one of the five to be eligible for ‘Government Apprenticeship Funding’ in full.

3.3 Test Engineer Learning & Development Narrative

testengineert learning

Note: the courses marked as ‘Mandatory’ and one of either the BCS Intermediate Certificate of ISTQB Advanced Test Analyst Certificate are required to qualify for full funding and graduate from the Apprenticeship Programme as Professional Test Engineers.

4 Meeting the Needs of the Apprentice

The programme has been designed to meet the skills of multiple business sectors and companies . It is composed of industry-accepted and proven courses to deliver best-practice training for Test Engineers. The programme provides professional training that will allow the apprentices to learn and develop on the job as they exercise acquired skills in:

  • Test Analysis;
  • Test Specification;
  • Test Design;
  • Test Execution;
  • Test Reporting and Defect Management
  • Test Automation
  • Risk-Based Testing
  • Testing of systems and components on a variety of delivery platforms, including mobile and desk based applications.

Training shall be delivered in the classroom with:

  • An experienced trainer who has real coal face experience;
  • A complete course manual and examples on which students can make their own notes;
  • Support from the trainer via email for life.

We would expect that the skills identified and exercised consume at least 75% of an apprentice’s time – which more than exceed the 20% OTJ training requirement.

5 Meeting the Needs of the Employer

The programme is based upon industry best practice and support a series of different development methods that are used in the market today.

TSG shall work with the employer to define the most suitable work for students to undertake based upon each course.  Work is expected to be exercised aligned with the skills learned in Section 4, Meeting the Needs of , above.

In defining the right type of work, we shall agree with the employer an appropriate percentage of daily tasks to be allocated to learning. However, as noted above, we would expect that at least 75% of an Apprentice’s time be spent on the job using the skills learned in the classroom.

The programme has been defined to turn out best-practice Test Engineers, but it can be modified in technical content to meet the specific needs of any particular methods, environments, skills and architectures as the employer may rely upon to underpin their business systems.

6 Benefits of the Approach

In helping to meet the requirements of building capability within a modern Test Practice we have clearly delineated the roles and mapped them to training functions to be supported, aligned with stated principles and competencies:

  • Courses will be delivered by experienced staff who have at least 20-years’ experience gained from training and programme delivery at the sharp-end.
  • The experience the trainers bring will allow them to offer the ever-important analogies and war-stories to make training relevant and accessible.
  • Courses can be tailored to meet specific requirements; although for ISTQB courses we are limited to 10% variation without having to reaccredit.
  • We can provide private training courses anywhere or staff can attend any of the courses that we run on our public schedule.
  • We will agree and put in place a monitoring and measurement system to make sure that:
    • The delegate experience is rich.
    • People are passing exams at the expected rate.
    • The overall programme is delivering against its aims.

A. Training & SFIA Cross Reference

The following table identifies:

  • The Knowledge Levels (K) that each course and exam is aimed at:
  • The SFIA Levels and the suitability of courses by the identified role types.