Stemming a Data Center Skills Shortage

More than half of workers with data center expertise are nearing retirment, according to AFCOM's Data Center Institute.

Seeking to slow the impending loss of more than half of data center professionals to retirement, AFCOMs Data Center Institute has created a new program to help IT groups retain and replenish mainframe and enterprise data center skills. The announcement was made at AFCOMs Spring 2003 Conference and IS Expo in Las Vegas.

According to Data Center Institute board chairman Leonard Eckhaus, 55 percent of workers with such expertise are over the age of 50. Over the next five to seven years, as these graying professionals retire, organizations will face a shortage of people who can keep mainframes and data centers humming.

"The large number of workers affected by this demographic trend, coupled with organizations continued reliance on mainframe-based applications, creates the potential for a crippling skills shortage," Eckhaus said in a statement.

AFCOM (formerly spelled out as Association for Computer Operations Managers but now known merely as AFCOM) is an association of data center executives and vendors. Its initiative, called the Data Center Knowledge Initiative, proposes a tri-prong attack on the problem with training, technology and management practices.

The training component, geared to preparing the next generation of data center and mainframe workers, consists of a relationship formed between AFCOM and Marist Colleges Institute for Data Center Professionals. The IDCP will offer accredited data center courses to AFCOMs membership via the Internet. The courses will be augmented with hands-on practicums at AFCOMs twice-yearly data center conferences.

Initial offerings from Marist College, which is located in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., include an undergraduate degree completion program for data center professionals, a separate undergraduate degree in data center technology, a certificate in data center technology and credit-bearing courses toward certification as a CDCP (Certified Data Center Professional).

Marist also offers for-credit courses toward other data center certifications, including data center systems and software, networking, facilities management, operations and process management, product development, financial planning, and security. Marist will also offer organizational and leadership skills courses and practicums.

The technology part of the initiative includes vendors such as ASG Software Solutions Inc., BMC Software Inc., Cybermation Inc. and Imation Corp., which are providing products and services to help propagate the skills in question. Such enabling technologies include wireless mainframe administration, security management, data management, application management, production management and infrastructure management.

The third leg of the initiative involves creating a repository of best practices that will be stored on AFCOMs Web site. According to Eckhaus, this repository will be updated and expanded over time.