GroupMe, OnSwipe, Gilt Groupe, and Others Prep SummerQAmp Program

3/12/12Follow @jpruth

When notable members of New York’s innovation scene, a rocker from New Jersey, and a former White House insider get together it is no mere jam session. Just such a coalition—including executives from New York’s Gilt Groupe, GroupMe, and OnSwipe—has started a national initiative to train a new work force in high-tech skills.

That program, called SummerQAmp was introduced last week with a press call that included Steve Martocci, co-founder of GroupMe; Aneesh Chopra, former CTO of the White House; Kevin Haggard, vice president of quality engineering at Gilt Groupe; and Jason Baptiste, CEO of OnSwipe. These technology mavens, along with Bon Jovi front man Jon Bon Jovi, formed the nucleus for the initiative, which is largely aimed at giving a broad range of candidates—including underprivileged youths—the chance to train for jobs in software quality assurance.

The SummerQAmp program was developed in partnership with the White House’s Summer Jobs+ initiative, which shares the goal of offering job opportunities to youths from low-income and at-risk backgrounds. Quality assurance was chosen as a focal point by the coalition because its importance in ensuring apps and software work properly though the work is oftentimes outsourced overseas.

Martocci said during call that quality-assurance skills are typically learned on the job rather than in classrooms. “It is a great stepping stone into other software jobs,” he said. Such opportunities include programming and IT management.

In a separate comment to Xconomy via e-mail, Martocci added that quality assurance is an underserved part of software development and that limited resources are currently dedicated to increasing awareness in America about this career path. “We’re hoping to change that,” Martocci says. “It’s also one of those positions at a startup that you might not realize you need until it’s too late.”

GroupMe, he says, has already hosted interns who worked on quality assurance for the company and believes others in the technology community can benefit from the initiative.

Further, Martocci says this program is being launched at a time when the local innovation scene is taking off. “New York is proving to be a great alternative to Silicon Valley, and SummerQAmp internships will help create more opportunities for prospective youth to get their careers started here,” he says, “but the goal of the program is to create as many internships as we can nationwide.”

During the press call, Martocci said he would like to see at least 1,000 internships in quality assurance made available this summer through the program. The target demographic is college-aged youths who are not in college.

Jon Bon Jovi, who was not on the call, is a member of the White House Council for Community Solutions and is reaching out to entrepreneurial companies in the tech sector to participate in the initiative.

Baptiste of Onswipe, said during the conference call that startups, including those with small teams, should consider taking on interns through the SummerQAmp program to improve their products and potentially change a life. “Companies shouldn’t wait too long to build their QA [quality assurance] team,” he said. “Even one intern through this program could make a difference.”

Other companies supporting SummerQAmp that also plan to take on interns through the program include eBay and Boxee. Several other New York technology companies are also lending a hand with the program. Software job recruiting firm Jibe is slated to provide its services to match candidates with companies. Education startup Knewton is helping structure the program. The CK-12 Foundation will make education materials on quality assurance available online to inform youths about this potential career path.

During the call, Chopra implored education institutions to get the word out about the program. “Help us design and disseminate these open and free learning materials in every community,” he says.

Gilt Groupe’s Haggard said during the call that the program may help keep the United States at the forefront of innovation as well as increase domestic employment. “Quality assurance is a great opportunity,” he said. “Today much of it is done offshore. There are lots of jobs out there but finding people with the skill set that know this can be tough.”

João-Pierre S. Ruth is the editor of Xconomy New York. He can be reached at jpruth@xconomy.com and followed on Twitter @jpruth. Follow @jpruth

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