The Workforce with Mainframe Expertise

The mainframe isn’t going anywhere. Just ask the CIOs of any of the top global banks who use mainframes to handle their mission-critical transactions. Ask the many health care companies that rely on the mainframe to handle their large volumes of sensitive data. Or ask insurance companies, financial services firms, airlines, or the government—they all depend on mainframes for their scalability, security and computational power.

So mainframes are still prevalent. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said of the people who develop applications for and manage mainframes.

Mainframes Aren’t Retiring…

The mainframe is not only ubiquitous in large organizations; they’re also working harder than ever. In a Compuware survey of global CIOs, “81 percent said their mainframe is running new or different workloads than five years ago, and handling greater big data throughput.”[i]

Even with the introduction of competitive computer platforms, 80 percent of the CIOs we work with report that they are continuing to invest in their mainframe, and around the same number of CIOs avow that their mainframe is critical to their cloud computing strategy.

Not surprisingly, some companies that turned away from the mainframe are moving back to using them again. The same Compuware survey reported “70 percent of CIOs said they were surprised by the additional work and money required to ensure new platforms could match the security of the mainframe.”

…But Mainframe Talent Is

With so many global businesses relying on the mainframe to handle large-scale data management, a sudden shortage of talent to maintain the mainframe is a real problem. According to The Data Center Journal, “Large numbers of IT veterans with decades of experience either have reached or are fast approaching retirement age. As they leave the workforce they take with them critical legacy-systems knowledge and experience that is extremely difficult to replace.”[ii]

And universities aren’t delivering a new generation of COBOL programmers. A survey by Micro Focus found that only 27% of the universities polled offer COBOL programming in their curriculum. That’s somewhat surprising, given that the same survey found that 71% of respondents believe businesses will continue to rely on COBOL-based applications for the next 10-plus years, while 24% said they believe that it will be around for more than 20 years.[iii]

Job opportunities and high income potential for COBOL programmers is there—but most new graduates would rather learn languages for web and mobile app development. As The Data Center Journal’s Jeffrey Shoup concludes, “To help their companies thrive…CIOs will need to actively develop recruiting, training and management strategies to avoid seeing their departments swamped by a potential mainframe-talent attrition tsunami.”

Unless universities and students catch on that mainframe programming continues to be a lucrative field, the alternative to hiring full-time employees is to seek the services of an experienced service provider. In-house recruiters are unlikely to know much about mainframe talent and qualifications. But InfoSec, a leading mainframe service provider, does, and they can help fill those vacated positions—often with a contractor who the company can work with on an as-needed basis. Using a part-time specialist has the added benefit of saving companies money because they’re not paying costly benefits to a full-time employee.

If you are one of the many companies that relies on mainframes, now would be a good time to contact InfoSec and start planning your strategy to avoid any gaps in your mainframe staffing. Outsourcing your recruiting is a solid option for sidestepping an inevitable talent drought.