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Mainframe Skills Council Brings the Community Together to Keep the Skills Momentum Going

IBM's Meredith Stowell on how the IBM Mainframe Skills Council is helping organizations bridge the shrinking mainframe skills gap

As IBM Z continues to play a vital role in hybrid cloud for organizations, the need for skilled workers grows. This fact was underscored by the Futurum Group’s “2024 Global Mainframe Skills Report: Insights from Industry and Educational Experts.” 

Of those surveyed for the report, 79% are seeking mid-career mainframe professionals and 51% are hiring entry-level positions, according to a news release from IBM, which, along with Broadcom and 21CS, sponsored the research.

“I think the survey results were quite revealing and made three distinct points. Firstly, there is a robust pipeline of mainframe talent entering the workforce. Secondly, there is a significant demand for skills at all levels. Lastly, there are abundant opportunities to acquire valuable mainframe skills,” says Meredith Stowell, vice president, IBM Z Ecosystem. “With this insight, we can identify what is driving the momentum as well as how to improve and sustain it.”

Countless programs at various organizations have been formed to address the skills gap in one way or another. But none is perhaps as comprehensive as the Mainframe Skills Council, which IBM introduced at the most recent SHARE conference.

21CS has its own onboarding and training programs for new mainframe talent, but company leaders recognize that more is needed. 

“To close the mainframe skills gap across the ecosystem, it is crucial for the commercial sector and academia to join forces,” says Eddy Ciliendo, vice president of strategy for 21CS. “We are confident that this holistic approach will increase the talent pool to ensure we have a vibrant community and future workforce for the next 60 years of the mainframe.”

The council is designed to provide a forum where global organizations can foster a skilled, diverse, sustainable workforce for the platform. Membership is meant to be diverse and includes IBM clients and partners, academia, user groups, non-profits and open communities. Initial members include the Academic Mainframe Consortium, Albany State University, Broadcom, DNB Bank, HOGENT, M&T Bank, Northern Illinois University, Rocket Software, SHARE and 21CS.

The Goals of the Mainframe Skills Council

Stowell is a firm believer in the power of community, which is how she describes the council. “How can we unite everyone passionate about this cause, leveraging the distinct value each organization offers, and fostering synergies to share experiences and innovate new solutions? Collectively, we have the ability to create something that hasn’t been seen before in this industry and that’s incredibly exciting,” she says.

The plan is for the council to include working groups focused on career awareness, competency frameworks, learning paths and professional development. Stowell summarizes the council goals as building a strong global workforce for the mainframe platform. To do so, the council will:

  • Showcase a vibrant mainframe talent pool
  • Align on common industry competency frameworks
  • Share ideas and practices to enhance professional development
  • Share education, training and tools
  • Increase mainframe employer adoption of proven skill initiatives and practices

“I see the new Mainframe Skills Council as an important step in making mainframe education more accessible to a wider audience while cultivating future advancements on the platform,” says Lauren Valenti, director for Education, Customer Engagement and the Vitality Program, Broadcom Mainframe Software. 

To that end, Broadcom has been working with IBM, Kyndryl and academia on the Mainframe Open Education Project, which is sponsored by the Open Mainframe Project and the Linux Foundation. Valenti sees this initiative as complementary to the goals of the Mainframe Skills Council.

IBM also introduced the IBM Z Mainframe Skills Depot, which offers specialized tracks for system administrators, application developers and modernization architects. The courses are self-paced and available at no charge.

Sharing and Raising Awareness

Like Broadcom, organizations across the ecosystem have programs to provide training and education on mainframe skills. M&T Bank, for example, has leveraged existing IBM programs, but they also offer their own education programs. The goal of the council is to help share those programs and experiences to increase awareness and provide ideas for other organizations to leverage.

“So what I see is, how can we leverage what we already have out there without reinventing the wheel and collaborate to accelerate new solutions in places where we may have gaps as a community,” Stowell says.