Walk into a typical mainframe site and chances are that most of the individuals in the room will be on the verge of retirement. Although mainframes play a key role in a wide range of industries, there is a shortage in the number of IT specialists capable of operating and maintaining these powerful computers.
More than a decade ago, many tech experts predicted that mainframes would soon become obsolete. As a result, new recruits started to diminish. But it was more than that. To the new generation, mainframes weren’t “sexy.” They were old metal boxes. Today, most of the mainframe workforce has gray hair. And unless knowledge is transferred to the next generation, our tech infrastructure may begin to suffer.
Why are there shortages?
The mainframe was first introduced in the 1950s by IBM. Used to complete bulk processing tasks, the mainframe quickly found its place as the backbone of corporations and organizations. Yet as time and technology improved, the number of individuals trained and experienced in mainframe computers failed to increase because new computer systems were developed and introduced.
Today, the baby boomers who run the entire mainframe industry are retiring and there’s about to be a huge number of job vacancies. According to Network World, there may be approximately 84,000 open positions in the field by 2020.
Some other reasons for mainframe staffing shortages include the following:
- Lack of educational courses: Thirty years ago, mainframe technology and skills were part of the IT curriculum. Today, universities offer few courses in mainframes. There need to be more opportunities, such as the IBM Z Academic Initiative and the Master the Mainframe contest, that encourage young people to learn about mainframes.
- False information: Many view mainframes as tech dinosaurs. However, this stereotype does not fit modern mainframes. Today’s machines are cutting edge and capable of processing incredible amounts of data. They are also secure – a huge advantage in an era when cybersecurity issues abound.
- A belief that mainframes are irrelevant: Many millennials see mainframes as a thing of the past. They see “big iron” as dated and cumbersome, and believe the industry is dying. A renewed focus on the power, stability, security, and advanced technology of mainframes could help change these perceptions and persuade millennials to embrace mainframe careers.
As the mainframe generation retires, companies will need to train and recruit new talent to fill the gaps, or develop an entirely new approach to processing and organizing immense amounts of data.
Many companies are aware of the staffing shortage affecting the mainframe industry and are trying to address the situation through a variety of approaches:
- Train talent within: One option is to encourage the transfer of information and experience from senior-level programmers and operators to new recruits.
- Look for outside talent: Newer companies, along with companies where many members of their mainframe team have retired, may need to source talent externally. You also need to factor in the cost of training and transitioning external talent to your team.
- Engage outside consultants: Given the mainframe staffing shortage, supply and demand dramatically affect the ability to obtain quality talent. Working with a trusted partner company that can supply senior-level talent can help alleviate this pain point.
Given the lack of individuals proficient in mainframe operations, it’s in your best interest to seek professional help if you encounter issues with your big iron. Companies that specialize in mainframe management can quickly assess your systems and ensure they are operating at peak performance levels.
If you have full-time staffing, part-time Mainframe Support need or a question about our Mainframe Support services and would like to learn more, then please contact us today.