LEAD-IT – What’s a Mainframer? Redefining the Pathway to Mainframe Careers

By Dan Martin, Director, Industry Influence

To paraphrase Bob Rogers, “Western Civilization runs on the mainframe.”

Organizations whose CroppedHeadshot_DanMartin.jpgmainframe operations are essential to everyday functions face a myriad of challenges in recruiting and retaining top talent, and ensuring that employees possess the skills required in their job roles. As part of a community which is a leader in building new industry initiatives, SHARE Members are
in a unique position to invest their insight and expertise by contributing to a developing program which defines new pathways to mainframe careers.

The traditional pathway to mainframe careers blends four-year degree programs, internships, and on-the-job training. Registered Apprenticeship Programs are an emerging avenue for new talent to join the industry. Apprenticeship programs registered with the US Department of Labor provide a unique, flexible training and education process which results in portable, verifiable credentials. These programs will equip entry-level candidates with hands-on experience and knowledge of the latest innovations and industry challenges.

Many enterprise organizations have already recognized the need for additional training by establishing their own internal programs. Developing these programs is expensive; they are difficult to successfully implement without a significant resource commitment.  Establishing a suite of brand-agnostic skills training and certification programs in the form of comprehensive apprenticeships for mainframe IT job roles will provide employers with a new method of recruiting and training talent, and creates opportunities for job candidates who have not followed the traditional pathway into the industry.

LEAD-IT (Leadership, Empowerment, Apprenticeship, and Diversity in Information Technology) is a partnership led by North Carolina A&T University.  The partnership includes SHARE, IBM, and a Community of Leaders in the enterprise IT industry who are collaborating under a US Department of Labor contract to develop and implement Registered Mainframe Apprenticeships. The program creates an alternative pathway into IT careers, and focuses on encouraging underrepresented populations to engage with private enterprise employers.  The program is a public/private partnership, utilizing public funding to foster development of the program. LEAD-IT leverages a set of nationally recognized STEM programs with a proven record of success, and private-sector industry expertise to effectively develop registered apprenticeship programs. The partnership encourages underrepresented demographics to consider career options within the mainframe.  

An essential step in this initiative is defining the mainframe job roles, competencies, and skill sets of potential apprenticeship programs. The knowledge and insight which SHARE Members can provide into these job roles will be crucial in developing comprehensive programs for apprentices. The LEAD-IT Job Competency Survey is a forum for members of the mainframe industry to share their expertise and provide input on the skills needed for successful entry into mainframe careers. Please take some time to complete the survey and help to refine the details of these job roles. Insights gathered from this research will be the fundamental building blocks used to develop the registered apprenticeship programs which will bring new lifeblood to the industry, and ensure the future availability of qualified candidates for mainframe careers.

If you are interested in learning more about LEAD-IT, please click here to subscribe to updates.

Daniel Martin is a senior software engineer for Rocket Software. He has primary responsibility for software that delivers enterprise-grade backup and disaster recovery services on IBM's z/VM mainframe virtualization platform. He has volunteered in a number of roles for SHARE, Inc. and currently serves as SHARE's Director of Industry Influence. Martin's 35 years of experience in both customer and vendor roles have taught him that "Good Software Matters."

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