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Mainframe Mentorship Program Attracts Millennials

Luis Bonilla

Luis Bonilla
Mainframe Systems Programmer

While the aging mainframe workforce is a real concern for many companies, we at Ensono have put in place a hands-on mentorship program that is attracting both computer science majors and working technicians to a career in mainframes. Yes, that’s right: we have found there are plenty of candidates for our hands-on program that is developing a pipeline of new talent for mainframe technical support and services.

A new dawn for mainframe jobs

To attract and train the next generation of professionals, we began by surveying our own workforce for employees eager for advancement and by launching a targeted recruiting effort at one university, which yielded initial interest from 38 computer science majors.

But we didn’t want to just hire anyone who raised his or her hand for a mainframe job. We designed a program to increase our chances for success for the company, our clients and the employees themselves by focusing on those who demonstrated commitment, interest and potential.

Before doing any outreach, we outlined the roles and responsibilities for a new junior-level associate position for each of our six technical support teams—database, operating system, automation, CICS, network and storage. We also created a process to winnow the pool of applicants through a combination of their taking online mainframe courses from Marist University and participating in up to two rounds of interviews.

During the pilot mentorships, we selected just one employee and three students. We started out small to shake out the approach and ensure lots of one-on-one attention from myself and other experienced mainframe technical support professionals.

The fruits of our labor

So far, we’ve mainstreamed two mentorship grads while two more are working their way through the program:

  • Our first college grad was promoted in early 2016 to the operating system team, which is responsible for upgrading mainframe operating systems and software, after working in Technical Support Services (TSSUP) for 18 months.
  • Our first employee in the mentorship program, who was previously a production control assistant, worked in billing systems for 13 months before she moved this year to capacity planning with additional technical and metric-based responsibilities.

As a next step, we are teaming up with the University of Central Arkansas to create a six-week mainframe internship program during which students will work and learn at our nearby Conway data center. Also in 2016, we plan to recruit more students from Northern Illinois University and from among our employees for mentorships in Ensono’s other mainframe service areas, including hardware, help desk and planning.

I have spent 32 years in mainframes, and it has been a great way to play a critical role for customers while making a living and putting two—and soon our third and last—kids through college. With this program, we can continue to ensure our customers have the expertise and innovation they need to support their business objectives and performance needs while developing more rewarding careers in mainframes for decades to come.

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