Free mainframe education. Are they going over the top down under?
In July 2018, an IT news site in Australia reported that mainframe education provider, Column 72, had launched a trainee program in Canberra that provides free education for students pursuing a degree in mainframe technology. Their hopes are to make a career in Mainframes more attractive to students. According to the article, financing for the program is being underwritten by government agencies and banks in Australia that are admittedly starved for IBM Z mainframe specialists. Students that meet the criteria are granted a 3-year education and the promise of a high paying job in mainframe technology.
Hooking tech talent is requiring a big lure.
In the competitive field of technology, the mainframe is a clear underdog when it comes to attracting young talent.
Firstly, it is considered a dinosaur to youth whom have grown up in the cloud, believing that it is the future of all technology. (The newest iteration of the Z supports cloud technology).
Secondly, many students are not exposed to mainframe technology until after high school. Unfortunately, it is during high school when many of the more talented students have already committed themselves to pursuing a career with a more familiar company, such as Dell or Apple.
This leaves us with the drastic measures that have been taken by our friends down under. Knowing that they cannot compete with the trendy likes of their counterparts in Silicon Valley, they have resorted to the last remaining lure in their tacklebox. Money.
This is a smart move since mainframes are not going away, but the specialists that manage them are retiring far more quickly than they are being replaced.
Will this method work in the United States and elsewhere?
It is not in question that we are in the eleventh hour when considering options to grow the mainframe specialist workforce. IBM has continued to defy naysayers, posting growth year over year thanks to their ability to keep new iterations of the Z mainframe relevant to modern industry needs. Unfortunately, educators and employers in the U.S. mainframe community have not taken the necessary steps to capture young talent before they are whisked away by trendier competitors in technology.
A temporary and possibly permanent solution.
Cost for maintaining mainframes is now at stratospheric levels due to the limited workforce and the high price tag that comes with OEM maintenance plans. Fortunately, this is when we often see capitalism at its best. Enter the third party contractor. Contractors have been maintaining machines that fall out of OEM plans for decades. Many have become a reliable and much more affordable alternative for businesses, often helping reduce IT budgets by tens of thousands per month. The savings have been so significant that businesses are now frequently outsourcing much, and sometimes all, of their maintenance to contractors, such as this maintenance program as provided by Simon Systems.
Only time will tell if the lure being cast down under will work. If they see early success, our hope is that counterparts elsewhere will make similar bold moves. The sake of data security and reliability depend on it.
Dave Christensen is President and CEO of Simon Systems and has been active in the Mainframe Community for nearly 30 years.
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