"Over the past nine years, IBM and our clients that require mission-critical IT skills have worked with schools around the world to teach enterprise computing as part of the IBM System z Academic Initiative. Skilled students entering the job market have a vibrant ecosystem that allows them to continue to enhance their skills by learning from seasoned professionals," said Greg Lotko, vice president IBM System z. "An increasing number of educators are embracing enterprise systems in their CS, IT and business curriculum. Teaching enterprise systems makes their students more valuable to prospective employers." Additionally, 1,067 schools are enrolled in the System z Academic Initiative, reaching students in 67 countries (more than half outside the United States).
IBM partners with universities to host enterprise systems education roundtables with clients and faculty. For example, Fairmont State University (FSU) in West Virginia recently hosted a Customer Summit meeting to discuss corporate needs in the workforce and how to infuse curricula with the desired skill sets for graduates to be immediately employable working on enterprise systems. According to FSU, participants included Depository Trust Clearing Corporation, Highmark West Virginia, FBI/CJIS Fingerprinting, the Department of the Treasury/Bureau of Public Debt and BNY Mellon.
In addition to college students, IBM is working with companies like Nationwide, Bank of America and Citigroup to run internal training programs to help employees support enterprise systems like the mainframe. IBM Academic Initiative participant Robert Morris University (RMU) is opening a new campus in downtown Pittsburgh where local businesses can send employees for training and certification to work on IBM enterprise systems. RMU says that its enterprise systems students are being offered full-time positions before they even complete their degrees.
Enterprise Computing Community
Marist College was awarded a $400,000 two-year grant from the National Science Foundation to build an academic and industry community to "revitalize undergraduate education in enterprise computing." Founding members of the Enterprise Computing Community included nine universities and nine industry partners. Now the Community boasts more than 1,000 members. Universities and colleges are rallying around enterprise computing on systems like the mainframe because they want to help graduates get jobs.
"While the performance and security benefits of the mainframe are unique, the skills required to support and program for it are less so," said David Dischiave, associate professor and the director of the Global Enterprise Technology and Systems and Information Science programs in the School of Information Studies (iSchool) at Syracuse University. "Once a programmer or software developer has the basic foundation of the systems and the principles of programming down, they can apply them to different languages like C/C++, COBOL and Java—all of which run on the mainframe. In short, programming is programming, no matter what platform you are using."
Computer Programmers ranked 9th on US News and World Report's list of 25 best jobs in 2012. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects computer programmer employment growth of 12 percent between 2010 and 2020, with the addition of 43,700 more professionals.
The 2012 IBM Master the Mainframe Contest launched Oct. 1. Now in its eighth year, the Master the Mainframe contest aims to provide students an introduction to enterprise computing skills. For example, the tasks from the last portion of the three-part contest are taken from real-life situations encountered by experienced systems programmers. Students created secure banking applications, developed complex programs designed to use a minimum of system resources and solved difficult problems with large databases. In 2011, the Master the Mainframe contest drew nearly 4,000 students from across the United States and Canada.
Women Please Apply
Thanks to their dedicated teacher, Seth Reichelson, 75 students from Lake Brantley High School in Florida completed the challenging second phase of the Master the Mainframe competition in 2011. Reichelson, a recipient of the National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT) Aspirations in Computing Educator Award, has 144 students currently taking advanced placement computer science classes; 45% of the students are girls (compared with the national average of 18%). This year, 296 students will participate in Reichelson's program. He says that the Master the Mainframe Contest has been a great recruiting tool.
The Mainframe Will Never Die
In a recent survey from CA Technologies, more than 75 percent of U.S. respondents confirm the mainframe is a strategic or highly strategic part of their current and future IT plans. More than half of U.S. respondents believe the mainframe is or will be a highly strategic platform in their cloud computing efforts. Almost all respondents (97 percent in the U.S.) felt their organizations were moderately or highly prepared to ensure the continuity of their mainframe workforce.
Enterprise IT Headhunters
Systemzjobs.com is a no-fee service that connects students and experienced professionals seeking job opportunities on the mainframe with prospective employers. Launched in February 2011, 275 employers and 3,750 job seekers have used the site.