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Connecting Candidates and Companies

The IBM Academic Initiative and zSkills Corp. partnership connects vetted mainframe talent to IBM mainframe customers and community

4/22/2015 5:00:24 AM | The IBM Academic Initiative is a respected program to help students get the skills and training needed to meet industry demands. The program works with academic institutions to offer resources and virtual access to IBM mainframes, and offers opportunities like the Master the Mainframe contest and the IBM z Systems Mastery Test certification, among others.

These are traits that companies find desirable, as they look for qualified students to join their Enterprise computing operation. And zSkills Corp. connects qualified students with companies looking for the best and brightest.

The Partnership

In spring 2014, zSkills Corp. aligned exclusively with the IBM z Systems Academic Initiative. Ron Fresquez, CEO and founder, zSkills Corp., says that while talking with members of the mainframe community in Minneapolis, where the company is based, two questions he kept hearing were “Where can we get mainframe training?” and “Where can we find mainframe talent with hands-on mainframe experience?”

“After doing a quick assessment I found there was no mainframe training in Minnesota and there were no identifiable resources for mainframe talent with hands-on experience,” he notes. “I knew part of the solution was to bring mainframe training to Minnesota.”

While looking to identify the short-, mid- and long-term mainframe skills needs of the local mainframe community, Fresquez connected with Don Resnik, director, IBM z Systems Academic Initiative. Through their collaboration with others on the IBM Academic Initiative team, the idea was developed to connect mainframe talent from IBM mainframe education programs, vetted by zSkills Corp., to IBM customers and ISV’s throughout North America.

IBM has been trying to assist clients with students and schools teaching z Systems programs. “Partnering with zSkills Corp. enables us to better serve our community and grow the program,” Resnik says.

Together, zSkills Corp. worked with IBM mainframe customers, IBM Mainframe Support Professionals and Academic Initiative staff to determined the technical and interpersonal skills mainframe candidates should have. Together “we were able to co-develop the criteria for the vetting process for identifying mainframe talent that would best meet the needs of the mainframe community,” Fresquez says.

“Every business wants to attract, retain and advance their mainframe skills,” Resnik points out. “zSkills Corp. working with the Academic Initiative provides a valuable service to our clients to meet those objectives. IBM is connecting zSkills Corp. with member schools so that they can promote and place students who are serious about careers in Enterprise Computing with z Systems. I encourage our community to use the service.”

Quality Candidates

Candidates zSkills Corp. works with “are some of the brightest, driven and most inquisitive people you will ever meet,” Fresquez notes.

Many candidates—mostly current students or recent graduates—are dean’s list students with a GPA of 3.5 or higher. They have spent several summers in mainframe internship programs at some of the largest and most successful mainframe organizations in the world, and have graduated from or are attending an IBM Academic Initiative college or university. Candidates include the finalists of the global IBM Master the Mainframe competition, IT professionals who have passed the IBM z Systems Mastery test and IBM Destination z Enterprise Computing Scholarship winners. All candidates have hands-on experience on the mainframe.

Fresquez points out that he helps mainframe students jump-start their careers by connecting them to mainframe customers in need of their mainframe skills. “I am very excited about the future of zEnterprise computing and I am even more excited and optimistic about the impact todays students will have on the industry,” he explains.

Talent Plan for Success

Working closely with IBM mainframe customers, zSkills Corp. helps to develop a Talent Plan for success. Fresquez says that most enterprises have done Succession Planning where soon-to-retire experienced mainframe professionals are giving way to a new generation of mainframe developers and infrastructure talent. Once the Succession Planning process is completed, his company can assist in the development and execution of a Talent Plan to help organizations locate the mainframe talent they need to improve organizational strength, achieve business goals and account for current and future mainframe talent needs.

Fresquez says that effective Mainframe Succession planning:

  1. Reduces organizational risk. Identify and address current and potential talent gaps to reduce the risk of poor business execution.
  2. Ensures talent continuity. Develop and maintain a continuous supply of internal and external talent to fill critical roles throughout the organization
  3. Leverages workforce insights. Analyze the organization’s talent supply and talent demand so that an organization can make more informed decisions.
  4. Increases employee engagement. Empower employees to reach their full potential, advance their careers and accelerate their learning with targeted development plans.
Fulfilling Opportunities

The service zSkills Corp. provides are important to Fresquez. “This is one of the most—if not the most—fulfilling opportunities I have been a part of,” he says.

There is no cost to the student to utilize zSkills Corp. services. Each mainframe student candidate is fully vetted by zSkills Corp. prior to being presented to an IBM mainframe customer seeking vetted mainframe talent. To find out more about the IBM Academic Initiative and zSkills Corp. partnership or how to get started, contact Fresquez at Ron@zskillscorp.com or visit the zSkills Corp. website.

Valerie Dennis is site editor of Destinationz.org.

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