The IT skills gap, which has steadily worsened over the past decade, is becoming a real crisis for many companies. While many were prepared for baby boomers to drop out of the workforce, they weren’t anticipating two outcomes from the pandemic – and the big quit coupled with a strong job market was a blow.
This has a significant impact on the company’s ability to manage core technologies, such as mainframes, which are vital to every company’s technology stack, but lack the appeal of other technologies such as programming, software development and data science for the next generation of new IT professionals. Generations Y and Z.
These younger generations often think that mainframes are no longer relevant when, in fact, the technology is still the backbone of processing large datasets in many businesses and industries where security is a business differentiator.
Faced with the reality that there is not enough tech talent to go around, how do companies attract mainframe professionals? Today’s market has certainly created the urgency for companies to communicate the right messages to the right people and the best tools to modernize the mainframe experience.
Here are three tips companies can use to highlight the opportunities available in the mainframe space.
1. Develop the pool of candidates
There is no replacement experience and managers looking to do so will be disappointed. To find new talent, companies need to expand their candidate pools. While these recruits may not have all the skills yet, they have the potential to bring immense value to your business with the right support.
One way to expand the pool of candidates is to hire people who are changing careers or industries. As the great resignation continues, companies must recognize that there is a growing group of professionals looking to make a change and seek out the candidates who will benefit their organization the most, regardless of their IT background. If culturally appropriate, these professionals are prime candidates for retraining and upgrading.
Another consideration: an apprenticeship program that builds employee expertise from the ground up and helps them succeed by providing the right training. Upon completion of the program, employers may choose to extend full-time offerings.
2. Promote the importance of the mainframe
Companies know that recruitment requires investment and that their employees are their greatest asset. A starting point for closing the mainframe skills gap is the education system. Unfortunately, many colleges do not offer mainframe education and training; companies should lobby institutions to include these skills in their curriculum, for example by teaching COBOL to students.
After candidates graduate (hopefully with some fundamental mainframe skills), companies should deliver messages that interest them, illustrating why the mainframe is an exciting technology with powerful and essential capabilities while communicating opportunities growth – as many professionals in the industry retire, there is the opportunity to quickly gain responsibility and add value, resulting in job security and good compensation. Highlight mainframe technology and its strategic value to the organization.
3. Create a flexible working environment
Employee attrition has high costs, which is why it’s important to tailor the work experience to this new generation of mainframe professionals to increase retention. This should include appropriate training, support and benefits to encourage employees to stay with a company. Plus, be prepared to offer the flexibility that many young professionals expect, such as the ability to work remotely or outside of the traditional 9-5 hours.
Mainframe managers should also be aware that these professionals are digital natives with new expectations for interacting with technology. Traditional mainframe interfaces with poor user experience can deter them. Organizations will need to modernize their tools with user-friendly graphical interfaces. This way, even inexperienced employees can maintain mainframe operations.
Addressing the mainframe skills gap is critical to keeping these critical technologies running. As mainframes continue to support businesses across all industries, successful organizations will be those that invest in the best tools and the best talent. To learn more about how Rocket helps customers innovate and protect mainframe investments, check out our suite of products.