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Future IBM i Jobs: Who Will Fill Them?

May 18, 2016

It's not a new topic for us, but it's still a top concern--both for us personally and in the IBM i community. Who will improve, modernize and maintain the applications that have been running so many businesses so well for so many years?

A significant percentage of IT staffs in IBM i shops are nearing retirement. Some of the smarter, more forward-thinking shops have taken proactive steps to move into the future, attracting and welcoming some younger developers into the IBM i and RPG families. But many seem to still be ignoring the issue. We've heard from a few even considering leaving the platform, with their primary reason for that being a lack of skills from young or old RPGers.

Recently we have learned of a video produced by Char Parker which talks about Muskegon Community College's IBM i program. We met Char and some of her enthusiastic students at our RPG & DB2 Summit event in Chicago last October, but we still learned a lot more about the program from the video.

Muskegon CC offers a strong IBM i and modern RPG curriculum not only to local students, but also to online students who may be nowhere near the campus. Char tells us that even though the courses are offered online, students are still required to take 2 in-person proctored tests per semester. How does this work when students can't get to the Muskegon campus? Char explains: "When students are a distance away, this is handled through a college testing center that is local to them."

The video was originally created for the Southeast Michigan i Users Group (SEMIUG), but is now thankfully available on YouTube. You really should take look at the video to see specifically what the MCC curriculum has to offer. We're hopeful that it may inspire more IBM i shops to work with their local community colleges--perhaps in conjunction with your local user group. Curricula like this are needed everywhere. Please help spread the word!

Char also co-operates with our long-time friend, Jim Buck, a leader in educating young people in IBM i and RPG. He not only churns out educated RPG programmers regularly from Gateway Technical College in Wisconsin, he also leads the local WMCPA user group--creating a synergy that undoubtedly helps both his students and the local companies in the user group. Dan Burger recently wrote a highly insightful piece on this topic in which he references Jim's success and muses, "Why has it been a struggle for IBM i shops to band together and work with local colleges to create curriculums that prepare students for real world job opportunities? ... Why don't the local user groups cultivate these business/college relationships?" Good questions!

There is big demand out there for IBM i talent and we think it the demand will only get bigger. Gateway and Muskegon are setting a great example of what can happen to increase the pool of knowledgeable, educated IBM i developers with bright futures ahead of them. If you know of other examples we should highlight, please let us know!

Posted May 18, 2016 | Permalink

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