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The IBM z Platform Attracts Recent Grads to Its Orbit

IBM Academic Initiative
Illustration by Tatiana Plakhova
 

In this social media-driven world where trends come and go, how does a mainstay like the mainframe attract the younger generation?

IBM reaches out to students through its IBM Academic Initiative for z Systems* program. Aimed to help educators teach students market-ready skills and to help businesses find new mainframe talent, the program offers discounted access to IBM products as well as skill-building opportunities for students.

Christy Schroeder, worldwide z Systems skills client leader, IBM, says the Academic Initiative program was established to help clients find a younger generation of mainframe employees. The program connects clients with universities that have strong mainframe-centric courses. “By developing a relationship with a local college or university, the client learns more about the qualified candidates and students learn more about the company, which will ultimately attract more students to apply for jobs with the client,” Schroeder says.

One Academic Initiative event is the IBM Master the Mainframe contest, which lets participants test their knowledge of and skills on the mainframe. (Read about the recent Master the Mainframe World Championship) This was the path followed by Matt Grinnell, technical specialist and mainframe network architect, ADP. During his freshman year at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York, he entered the Master the Mainframe contest. Bushra Kabir, OS analyst, Wells Fargo, says her early experience with the mainframe was completing the first stage of the contest as well.

Tapping the Younger Generation

Grinnell graduated in 2014 with a degree in information technology and is currently pursuing his master’s in computer networks and security at Marist College. During an internship at IBM, Grinnell realized plenty of job opportunities exist in the mainframe field. Through his internship and college courses, he developed a skill set that most college graduates didn’t have. Thanks to this experience and an introduction to his future boss at a Marist-hosted career fair, Grinnell had little difficulty securing a job in the field.

Unlike Grinnell, Kabir entered the workforce without prior mainframe experience. Through an on-site interview with Wells Fargo at a university-hosted career fair, Kabir was offered a position on the bank’s OS support team before she received her degree in information management and technology from Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York, in May 2015. She believes college students are unaware the mainframe exists. “I think the initiatives IBM has taken—for example, with the Master the Mainframe contest—are a great way to expose this old yet crucial technology to young people,” Kabir says. “This contest is also connecting employers to potential young mainframers, and that’s a great opportunity for young mainframers to find work opportunities.”

Grinnell agrees that many new hires have limited mainframe knowledge and experience. He says ADP recruits heavily from Marist College because the college offers many mainframe classes. Standout candidates at ADP have often taken some mainframe coursework, have at least a conceptual understanding of z/OS* and its major subsystems, and/or have participated in Master the Mainframe.

For the platform to stay vibrant, new mainframers engaged in its success are necessary. “The mainframe is a very complex and intelligent piece of technology that has been beneficial to organizations for generations; the only way its future will still be bright is if young workers are involved with it, learning about it and are excited about it,” Kabir says.

Caroline Vitse is a freelance writer based in Rochester, Minnesota.


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