Evangelizing Mainframe
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IBM Academic Initiative Helps Fill the Skills Gap

The growing need for mainframe skills in the computing market has been evident over the years. Justifying this statement is the mere fact that the following rely on these enterprise systems to do business:

• The top 25 worldwide banks
• 23 of the top 25 U.S. retailers
• Nine of the top 10 global insurance providers
• 64 percent of U.S. Fortune 500 companies, and
• 71 percent of global Fortune 500 companies

Who maintains these systems? The system programmers, many of whom will soon retire, leaving a huge gap in the skillset required for maintaining these complex systems. This should not only concern the big companies using mainframes but also vendors like IBM.

The solution is pretty simple: To prepare new graduates with the necessary skills, the technology must be taught in schools and universities. To bridge the gap, the IBM Academic Initiative System z was formed. The Academic Initiative team, I must say, have done a great job over the years in attracting new students to learn the mainframe. The industry has equally supported the move. One of the most successful achievements is the annual Master the Mainframe Contest.

Through the contest, participating students solve real-time business problems using mainframe systems. The competition has been well-received by the younger generation. It’s not all about winning. It’s also about the feeling of tackling complex problems, doing it quickly to get recognized, and earning exciting prizes at the same time. This has definitely helped reduce the obscurity of learning mainframe skills at the school level.

As a result, mainframe education has now been promoted and introduced to the different schools at various levels. The industry and educators have advocated the need for enterprise systems. Companies are seeking and nurturing students with mainframe skills through job and internships opportunities. Scholarships have been made available to deserving students who are willing to further their mainframe education. All of this has been done to address the skills gap. Soon, there will be an army of mainframers, a new generation ready to tackle and control the business operations.

Niranjan Sharma recently graduated with a master’s degree in information systems from Illinois State University with specialization in enterprise systems. As a research assistant and z/VM infrastructure administrator at ISU, he led and managed projects on virtualization using z/VM and VMware. With diverse experience in operating systems and networks, he looks forward to base his career in cloud computing and virtualization.

Posted: 10/25/2011 9:34:55 AM by Niranjan Sharma

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