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Legacy Technology Skills Gap Looms: How to Avoid It

It’s tempting to ignore the fact that many of today’s most important industries, from airlines to banking to government and insurance, rely on aging legacy technologies based on the old COBOL programming language. As Sharon Florentine writes in a article, if we act quickly, there is still time to steer this Titanic ship of legacy IT clear of the approaching skills gap iceberg.

Time is Running Out

Florentine talks to Chris O’Malley of Compuware, who explains how CIOs bought themselves some additional time, but not much:

“A lot of this talent has worked in these jobs for 30 years doing application development and writing tens of millions of lines of code. A lot of times the people that wrote the first line of code for a mainframe application are still working at that company. The economic crash in 2008 gave CIOs a little leeway; talent has hung on way past their expected retirement age, and exploited the need for their skills,” says O’Malley. But this scenario can’t go on forever, and CIOs have to address it soon.

Add to the problem the fact that many mainframe legacy applications are custom-built (meaning they’re proprietary). This is acting like a proverbial fog around the ship, making it necessary to train staff in-house, with new staff needing to be mentored.

Education & Marketing

That leads us to education, which isn’t as large a barrier as one might think. A lot has changed in recent years in terms of application modernization and integration technologies. Java and C++ can be written to supplement COBOL, and higher ed. institutions like Marist College are training students for a diverse set of opportunities that include mainframe coding, among other skills.

The education component is obviously the most critical to avoiding the skills gap iceberg, but there is also the issue of getting new hires to want to participate in supporting critical legacy infrastructure. That challenge, says O’Malley, can only be solved by effective marketing. Making COBOL cool again will be a challenge, but once college grads and young talent realize the pay benefits of learning old skills, it’ll be like taking a chip off the old (ice) block.

Read the original article at:

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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