Thought Leadership: Mind the Gap – Analyzing the Mainframe Skills Survey

By Donna Hudi, SHARE Executive Director

Throughout the past year, SHARE has tackled a number of mainframe-related educational topics, but it’s no coincidence that we’ve focused much of our time and effort on addressing the mainframe skills gap. In 2015, we teamed up with IBM Systems Magazine and independent research company Signet Research Inc. to get a more in-depth look at the mainframe skills gap by creating a survey asking IBM Systems Magazine subscribers and SHARE members questions related to this very topic. With 1,433 responses, we received a wealth of information about just how wide this gap is growing and why it has become such a problem. Respondents included systems analysts and programmers, consultants, database administrators, sales/marketing management and more.

The survey shows that retirement is a key contributing factor to this problem. Twenty-two percent of respondents reported that 1-10 percent of their mainframe workers will retire in the next five years; 21 percent reported that number would be 16-25 percent of workers; 16 percent of those surveyed claimed that number would be 11-15 percent; and 11 percent claimed 16 percent or more of their mainframe workers would retire in the next five years. The mean of all responses was 18 percent of the mainframe workforce retiring in the next five years.

However, as experienced mainframe professionals retire, the need for those skills will continue to grow. Eighty-five percent of survey respondents claimed that the need for mainframe skills will increase as mainframers retire, and 93 percent of those surveyed expressed that they were very concerned or somewhat concerned about the growing mainframe skills gap in the next five years.

While it seems that the gap is a known problem, IT professionals also recognize a lack of training and finding qualified personnel are fueling the fire. Forty-seven percent of those surveyed reported that finding qualified personnel with appropriate skills is the biggest hurdle to solving the mainframe skills shortage. Meanwhile, 16 percent claimed the cost of training is their biggest hurdle, and 14 percent reported it is access to training that causes the biggest hindrance.

To SHARE, this information represents an opportunity for us to do what we do best: provide education, professional networking and industry influence. For example, our New to z Systems three-day program is specifically designed for individuals looking to develop basic z Systems skills to become more effective in a new or existing role. At SHARE in San Antonio (2016), SHARE Academy, an intensive, one-day education event, made its debut, providing an opportunity for attendees to dive deeper into IMS Immersion and Assembler Bootcamp classes. Summer 2016’s SHARE Atlanta will feature programming focused on CICS and z/OS debugging. Education, check. The zNextGen Project is a user-driven community of more than 1,000 new and emerging z Systems professionals. The community shares resources and knowledge to help young professionals expedite their professional development and skills. Networking, check. SHARE also regularly publishes White Pieces providing technical information to mainframers. Industry influence, check.

To learn more about the survey data and how SHARE is addressing these concerns, we have put together a comprehensive infographic that will be available in the SHARE booth at SHARE Atlanta, July 31 to Aug. 5. The infographic will also be shared via our mindSHARE blog and social media.

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