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[With apologies to Supertramp.]

Every now and then (read, once or twice a week) I’ll see an article or mention of the “crisis” in mainframe skills. “The workers are getting older and retiring!”, shout all the Chickens Little. “How will we ever replace them?!?” This is crazy talk. As though all those recalcitrant mainframers had a choice, and could simply remain young and vibrant until their employers lay them off, at which time they should simply disappear. It makes me, well, Always Grumpy… and also Very Surprised at the short-sightedness of the chickens. Silly me.

As I wrote in a comment on a LinkedIn article by Craig Mullins, I don’t think there’s a crisis in the workforce: young aspiring professionals will go where the jobs are, and mainframe jobs are mostly at large enterprises where employment is relatively stable, well-paid and comes with benefits. The students I work with are mostly eager to take any job that offers a good, stable situation with a decent career path. For those who are interested in employment at large enterprises, mainframe is a viable option they won’t ignore – I see it every term!

Instead, I think there’s a crisis in the workplace: too many employers are unwilling to take the time to train their employees. It takes several years for a newly-minted college graduate to really pull their weight on a mainframe team. But so what? This is how you build the kinds of stable, long-term teams that will support high-security, high-availability environments for our mission-critical processing workloads.

I have the great good fortune to teach part-time at Georgian College, in Barrie, ON, where “The Mainframe Environment” is a mandatory course for many students and a technical elective for many others. Further mainframe courses are offered as follow-on technical electives in things like Cobol programming and mainframe security, and there’s a mainframe certificate is available in continuing studies. All of this is in conjunction with IBM’s Mainframe Initiative. And mainframe managers at my full-time employer regularly go to Georgian for new hires exactly because the students have a little bit of relevant exposure and training that shortens the training process. If the colleges and the employers work together on this, I think the imaginary mainframe skills shortage will disappear.

Jonathan Gladstone is alwaysgrumpy at jbglad59.ca@gmail.com or follow me on Twitter @jbglad59.

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One Comment

  1. It seems that Georgian College is ahead of the game with its mainframe program. Maybe others will follow suit.
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