Monday, April 15, 2024

IBM Forms Mainframe Skills Council to Address Talent Gap

During this week’s SHARE conference in Orlando, IBM unveiled the Mainframe Skills Council, a forum designed to help international organizations cultivate a talented, diverse, and long-term workforce for the mainframe platform. The council will work with IBM and other organizations from various sectors, such as academia, user groups, non-profits, and open communities, to develop mainframe skills development solutions.

Academic Mainframe Consortium, Albany State University, Broadcom solutions, DNB Bank, HOGENT, M&T Bank, Northern Illinois University, and Rocket are among the founding members. There has been significant progress made in the mainframe community’s efforts to bridge the skills gap between generations of mainframe users. Building on these developments and igniting the community to share experiences and develop mainframe talent solutions that can expand with the platform is made possible by the Mainframe Skills Council.

Recent studies support industry initiatives to improve mainframe expertise

The ability to adapt to economic shifts in the market and new technological advancements is crucial for any organization to succeed in the modern business world. A hybrid cloud operating model has been adopted by 56% of the companies surveyed in the 2022 IBM Transformation Index: State of Cloud survey. IBM Z offers a robust and flexible IT platform that supports customers’ digital transformations and is an essential component of many clients’ hybrid cloud environments. Many businesses will find success especially in having mainframe skills as they modernize their applications, apply AI, and concentrate on digital transformation.

Commissioned by IBM, Broadcom, and 21CS, new research from The Futurum Group, titled 2024 Global Mainframe Skills Report: Insights from Industry and Educational Experts, demonstrates the ongoing need for mainframe talent as well as the advancement of the mainframe workforce growth as the mainframe community collaborates to develop skills.

The survey called attention to the current need for experienced mainframe professionals, with 79 percent of respondents recruiting for mid-career mainframe positions and 51 percent recruiting for entry-level positions. It also highlighted a generational gap in mainframe skilling with an influx of early career talent. Indeed, in 2023, 11–20 mainframe-related roles were hired by 32% of mainframe employers who responded to the global survey, and more than 20 mainframe roles were hired by 35% of them. Furthermore, according to 91 percent of employer respondents, they intend to expand and invest in their mainframe IT teams by hiring personnel for new mainframe positions within the next one to two years.

With 75% of responding university leaders indicating that their institution offers course curricula for students to learn mainframe skills and 83% of student respondents indicating they are learning mainframe skills through their university, the survey results also highlight the increased opportunities for mainframe job seekers to learn and grow their skills regardless of where they are in their careers.

Businesses are also utilizing the community resources that are on the market to identify, educate, and cultivate mainframe talent. As a mainframe hiring or recruitment strategy, 60% of surveyed mainframe employers say they rely on non-traditional skills resources, such as collaborating with industry vendors on bootcamp, training, or apprenticeship programs. Additionally, employers of mainframes who invest in the platform reported that they have less difficulty finding qualified candidates. Of the surveyed companies, 71 percent of those with at least $10 million invested in their mainframe environment stated that they have either fully or sufficiently met their hiring targets for mainframe system administrator roles by the year 2023.

IBM and many other industry vendors are collaborating with colleges, mainframe employers, online learning platforms, training providers, the workforce, and community organizations to provide extra learning opportunities to help clients support their mainframe platform with a thriving technical community. This initiative aims to promote growth in the mainframe industry and improve access to skills.

The mission of the Mainframe Skills Council is to develop, nurture, and engage mainframe talent

As for networking opportunities, apprenticeships, and skills training, “there is a significant and growing demand in the tech space,” states Kate Holterhoff, a senior analyst with RedMonk with expertise in IT and developer upskilling. “IBM’s Mainframe Skills Council expands the range of options for individuals looking to reskill into a career as a mainframe professional.”

Apart from providing training, industry-recognized digital badging, support to the academic community, and non-traditional pathway programs, IBM also offers mainframe skills solutions and insights through its larger IBM Z global community, which consists of universities, clients, user groups, and partners. In order to develop a robust worldwide workforce for the mainframe platform, organizations are brought together by the Mainframe Skills Council to exchange experiences and work together to implement solutions. Working groups on learning paths, competency frameworks, career awareness, and professional development will be part of the council.

Among the council’s objectives are:

  • Displaying a thriving talent pool for mainframes.
  • Aligning with industry competency frameworks.
  • Exchanging ideas and practices to improve professional development.
  • Exchanging educational materials, training aids, and related resources to maximize professionals’ and leaders’ mainframe career experiences.
  • And encouraging mainframe employers to adopt tried-and-true skill initiatives and practices.

A tenured mainframe workforce presented a business challenge, stated Gary Fusco, M&T Bank’s engineering director. Their collaboration with IBM and Franklin Apprenticeships allowed us to create an M&T mainframe skills education program. Their apprentices were installing new products on the IBM Z platform and coding in COBOL by the time the program was six months old.

Resources and Programs for IBM Z Skills

IBM is now offering a comprehensive platform for mainframe skills training called the IBM Z Mainframe Skills Depot. In order to obtain industry-recognized digital badges, learners can select from specialized tracks catered to roles like System Administrator, Application Developer, or Modernization Architect and access over a thousand hours of free, self-paced, hands-on learning.
Beyond the classroom, IBM provides extra non-traditional skill programs and resources, such as the IBM Z Global Skills Accelerator and Apprenticeship program.

Over 440 mainframe system administrators and application developers in 13 countries have been skillfully trained by 83 global employers through this program, which offers over 300 hours of learning, success coaching, on-the-job training, and mentorship. Additionally, the IBM Z Student Ambassador program supports mainframe student clubs on campuses at over 95 universities worldwide and gives students the chance to take on leadership roles.

IBM hosts IBM Z Virtual Career Fairs globally to bring together IBM clients, partners, and credentialed mainframe talent in order to facilitate the connection between employers and mainframe talent.

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