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Mainframe Skills are in High Demand for CIOs

Airlines, hospitality, insurance, and finance are all industries that continue to operate “mainly” on mainframe computer hardware. Although it was perceived as a dying career skill for many decades, Mary Shacklett for TechRepublic reports on the glaring mainframe skills gap that CIOs are pressured to fill.

The Amazing Mainframe

The latest IBM mainframe can process 2.5 billion transactions per day, support virtualization, host a range of applications, shoulder the processing software of big data applications such as Hadoop, and can deploy effectively in the cloud, hosting efficient, reliable, and high-performing systems. But the folks who help run and maintain these technologies are on their way out:

The average age of a mainframe professional is between 55 and 60, according to a quote in a 2010 Bloomberg Business article. “The concern that I heard from senior executives at major enterprises in our area was that half of their mainframe workforce would be retiring in the next four to eight years,” said John Turchek, Professor, Computer Information Systems and Department Head, Computer Information Systems at Robert Morris University (RMU) in Pittsburgh. “They were going to need young people with the right skillsets to run this technology.”

Decline of a Curriculum

Turchek reflects on a time (roughly between 1976 and 1995) when mainframe education was in decline at universities. Originally, six core curriculum mainframe courses were required of IT students at RMU. In 1995, those courses became electives. In 2005, they disappeared from the curriculum altogether. But the 90s futurists who predicted a full-blown switchover to distributed servers obviously did not talk to industry executives first. College mainframe courses are making a comeback.

Caching in on the Future

Anecdotally, almost 100% of RMU graduates specializing in enterprise mainframes find jobs in the IT field. That number speaks for itself, and you’ll find that same statistic at the University of Arkansas, where 30 enterprise internships are offered annually. One initiative by IBM seeks to draw more students to enterprise IT with special attention on the mainframe, and the best candidates are starting with $70K plus salaries at major companies – time to cache your dreams, future alums.

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About Eric Anderson

Eric Anderson is a staff writer for CAI's Accelerating IT Success. He is an intern at Computer Aid Inc., pursuing his master's degree in communications at Penn State University.

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