IBM's Master the Mainframe Contest Preps Students for IT Jobs

IBM announced the winners of its Master the Mainframe contest, which prepares students for jobs in the IT industry, particularly on the mainframe.

IBM has announced the winners of its 2012 Master the Mainframe contest, which is part of the company’s effort to prepare a new generation of workers with skills for the mainframe as it continues to evolve.

IBM’s Master the Mainframe Contest, part of the company’s Academic Initiative, equips high school and college students with the basic skills needed to make them more competitive in the job market, IBM officials said.

This year's contest, which drew more than 4,600 students from the United States and Canada, was the largest turnout for IBM in North America since its 2005 inception. The three-part contest serves as an introduction to programming and application development and requires no initial mainframe experience. As students complete each part of the contest, judges evaluate their results and reward those who move on to the next step. Each phase gets considerably harder as students progress, beginning with basic mainframe navigation to completing a project that tackles a real-world business scenario.

The 2012 contest’s top three winners are:

1st place: Miles Nosler, Texas State University

2nd place: Benjamin Paul, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

3rd place: Sushain Cherivirala, Dulles High School

“If someone told me I would take the top spot among 4,600 very smart students competing in IBM’s Master the Mainframe contest, I wouldn’t have believed it,” first-place winner Nosler said in a post on IBM’s Smarter Planet blog. “But that’s exactly what I did, and now I have in-demand technical skills on my resume that are landing me job interviews."

Throughout the last 49 years, IBM has taken a lead in advancing the mainframe, anticipating both the present and future needs of businesses. Organizations are moving more cloud, mobile, big data and analytics computing projects onto mainframes and joining them with traditional projects such as transaction processing, operational analytics and database management to develop solutions that can empower a Smarter Planet. Because of these trends, today's mainframes are growing in popularity, requiring a new generation of mainframe experts, IBM said.

“The contest rules specified that no previous mainframe experience was necessary, so I signed up and actually did better than I anticipated, earning an honorable mention in the competition,” Nosler said of the 2011 contest. “I was immediately hooked on the raw computing power of the mainframe and its ability to crunch massive amounts of big data.”

The IBM Master the Mainframe contest, now in its eighth year, reaches 33 countries, with new countries such as Austria, India, Poland and Spain added each year. The 2012 contests drew a total of 13,813 students globally.

In addition to the contest introducing new IT skills, IBM helps students job search by connecting them with industry-related jobs posted on The job board is a resource to link IBM System z clients and partners with students learning the mainframe and professionals seeking System z job opportunities. To date, more than 4,300 job seekers have registered. regularly features more than 1,000 mainframe-related jobs.

“Learning with the latest enterprise technology and studying real-world scenarios helps my students gain market-ready skills before they graduate,” said William Cunningham, a faculty member at Nova Scotia Community College, in a statement. “Last year, one of my graduates landed a job based on his participation in the Master the Mainframe contest.”

According to the 2012 IBM Tech Trend Report, as business demand for emerging technologies such as mobile, big data and analytics, social business and cloud rise, enterprises are facing an increased IT skills shortage. The report showed that only one in 10 organizations surveyed had the skills needed to implement these advanced technologies, with roughly one-quarter of those reporting major skill gaps, and 60 percent or more stating moderate to major shortfalls.

IBM’s Enterprise Systems Education Program has been working closely with academic institutions worldwide to communicate the industry’s skills requirements and create new enterprise computing programs--minors, concentrations and certificate programs--in an ongoing effort to educate and encourage students to enter the enterprise systems field. IBM’s Master the Mainframe Contest provides educators with a way to increase enrollment and reinforce the skills their students are learning in these new programs.

“The fantastic turnout by students and difficult challenges set by our IBM technical experts made this our toughest contest yet,” said Michael Todd, team leader of the IBM Master the Mainframe contest, in a statement. “All of the student competitors deserve special recognition for their extraordinary accomplishments, and we hope they will continue to use the skills they’ve learned to help organizations build their big data, cloud and mobile computing projects.”

IBM’s Academic Initiative provides more than 30,000 higher education professionals with no-charge access to enterprise software, curriculum and teaching materials to help students gain advanced IT skills.