Mainframe Skills Shortage Looms

Afcom calls for more training, noting that many administrators with mainframe know-how are heading for retirement

April 8, 2004

2 Min Read
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LAS VEGAS -- In many walks of life, a long history equates to an accumulation of knowledge about a topic. Not so with mainframe computers.

The 40th anniversary of the general purpose mainframe, celebrated by IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM) yesterday, happened to coincide with a call for more training in this field, to compensate for a growing skills shortage.

Colleges are not teaching much mainframe technology,” said Afcom chairman Leonard Eckhaus at the data center user association's Data Center World Conference here in Las Vegas. “Young people want to work with Web technology in particular; this really excites them.”

To make matters worse, most data center managers are not exactly spring chickens themselves. Eckhaus says, “What’s happening is that more than 50 percent of the data center managers in large data centers today are over 50 years old, and in the next five or six years you will see a lot of retirement.”

As a result, Afcom is now on a mission to boost the profile of some of the older data center technologies. “Colleges and universities," Eckhaus urges. "We would like to see them come up with more training in this area as part of their IT programs.”But existing users will have to do their bit as well. He adds, “Data centers have to begin cross-training young people that come in to be able to take over these responsibilities -- the mainframes are going to be there and this is a technology that is not going to go away.”

Afcom also warned that, unless it is addressed quickly, the data center skills shortage could prove as expensive for some firms as was dealing with Y2K.

Recruitment for data center roles is tough at the moment, according to Kenneth Lambert, systems software manager at California-based Associated Third Party Administrators. He says, “Finding people who can function in that environment is increasingly difficult -- so many people want to be working with the newer technologies.”

Afcom has already started working with Marist College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., to establish data center qualifications for IT professionals.

James Rogers, Site Editor, Next-gen Data Center Forum0

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