Awareness, Training Are Keys to Nurturing Next Generation of Mainframe Professionals

Any recent college graduate would love to hear about a job opportunity in an industry with promising growth potential. So why aren’t more young professionals finding their way to a career in mainframes?

Holden O’Neal, Senior Associate Software Developer – Host Research and Development with the SAS Institute, a millennial who recently entered the field—gave some advice about millennials and mainframes to ITProPortal. He suggests a lack of awareness and proper training are preventing many millennials from taking advantage of the significant career opportunities in mainframe.

O’Neal says he once labored under the same misperception shared by other young professionals: that mainframes were a dying technology, offering few career opportunities.

However, his viewpoint changed after learning about the significant mission-critical mainframe applications and the important role the mainframe plays in industries such as finance, telecommunications, and retail.

But a lack of familiarity with mainframe coding and concepts could discourage some young professionals from even applying for these jobs. That’s a missed opportunity for companies in need of filling the mainframe skills gap, which, according to Network World, could mean as many as 84,000 open mainframe jobs available by 2020.

Training and Mentorship

How can the industry address these obstacles and recruit more young talent to fill those positions? O’Neal says intimidation can factor into the job-hunting process. For example, candidates who come across mainframe job ads containing esoteric acronyms and requirements for unfamiliar programming languages might get the impression that they aren’t cut out for the industry. After all, it’s a lot easier to find free online Python tutorials than COBOL classes

O’Neal suggests a good approach may be for companies to hire talent who are eager to be problem-solvers, then develop specific programming skills later. Young professionals will be more interested in these types of roles if they understood that a career in mainframe allows them to dig into exciting concepts in the worlds of mobile applications, data analytics, and cloud computing.

From there, on-the-job training will be important for building the next generation of talent. Internal mentoring is a big help, as it provides a safety net and resource for developing young talent, but it’s often hard for companies to establish such programs. A Compuware survey cites 70 percent of global CIOs report poor knowledge transfer from older to younger mainframe professionals.

Without such mechanisms available within their businesses, many CIOs will need to turn to outside training to build up their mainframe talent. O’Neal mentioned SHARE programs as an important resource for building his skills. Similarly, academy programs are being designed to teach young professionals how to make the most out of this technology.

Ultimately, the resources are out there, but the mainframe industry must improve its advocacy and communications programs to ensure young professionals know there are exciting things happening in mainframe.

Find out how IBM is currently training new hires and introducing them to the world of mainframes. Register for SHARE San Jose to attend “From Fossils to Jurassic Park,” March 7 at 3:15 p.m., a zNextGen session all about IBM’s formal new hire education process, mentoring programs, monthly new-hire activities and events.

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