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The aging workforce: What are you doing about it?
Jeff Shoup, Mainframe Solution Architecture Leader
Friday, February 13, 2015

The aging workforce is one of the top concerns that we frequently hear about from our clients and prospects. We also see many articles and papers on the topic. This is not a new concern, but perhaps it has been delayed longer than expected due to the recent economic downturn. However, economic problems or not, the time is rapidly approaching for a large number of retirements from our most experienced mainframe support people. We have seen a ramp-up in retirements as of late.

So… the question is: What options do you have?

  • Replace the mainframe so that you no longer need those skills. As many have learned, this is not easily done. Rewriting applications is time consuming and expensive, and maybe your application really belongs on the mainframe.
  • Recruit experienced replacement staff. If the workforce is approaching retirement age, how many qualified candidates are out there who are unemployed and looking for a new job? How close would they be to retirement? Is this merely a Band-Aid?
  • Recruit college graduates with technical degrees from local universities. Depending on the university you approach, how many mainframe courses might they still have in their computer science curriculum? Maybe these candidates will have had one COBOL course, but will they know assembler? JCL? Even if they do, will they have had any training on system administration skills (software installation, dump reading, operating system support, etc.)?

Let’s assume that you plan on recruiting a mixture of experienced candidates and recent college graduates - the experienced systems programmers as a short term fix while you take a longer-term project to recruit and train recent graduates. How much extra money do you need to budget to accomplish the recruitment and training? How much time does it take to get a recent college graduate – even with a technology degree - trained to be productive?

Then, once you’ve gone through the expense of training this recent college graduate, how do you retain them? The concern would be that some other company could offer them a larger salary and get them to jump ship once they are trained – since they hadn’t bothered to plan to replace their staff.

This is what keeps me up at night. What about you? How have you addressed or solved this challenge?

About the Author

As Mainframe Solution Architecture Leader, Jeff is responsible for the design, creation, costing and solutioning of all mainframe services.  Jeff meets with prospective Ensono clients to gain an understanding of their needs and then works with his team to design a reliable and cost-effective solution. Before becoming Solution Architecture Leader, Jeff was the Mainframe Product Manager, and prior to that he led a team of 22 systems programmers in the mainframe technical support business unit. He has been with Ensono since 1998 and is a key player in all mainframe sales initiatives. Jeff holds a BS in Computer Science from Elmhurst College.