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Mainframe Skills: How to Build a Talent Strategy fit for Today’s World

Claire Connor

Claire Connor
Senior Mainframe Solution Architect

Michael Pennaz

Michael Pennaz
Head of Mainframe Strategy, Integration & Practice

There is a storm sweeping through the tech industry. Difficult economic conditions and renewed pressure on budgets are driving an ever more competitive outlook, with firms lobbying to win over customers with innovative and tech-driven services – all while still looking to build a robust talent pool at their organisation. Finding that talent is difficult in several areas of tech, but one area in particular stands out: mainframe. In many ways, mainframe is in the eye of the storm, with an ageing workforce and new workers unconvinced and unaware that mainframe skills offer a bright future for them.

Research from Deloitte found that 79% business leaders pointed to acquiring the right resources and skills as their top mainframe-related challenge. It is increasingly clear that businesses need to do more to make the case that mainframe is a career with opportunities aplenty, and they need to do it now.

In November 2022, we presented a session on this topic at the GSE Conference. We discussed with attendees why mainframe remains an important technology with plenty of career opportunities. We also unpacked how organizations can successfully build a workforce full of talented mainframe professionals – drawing on the success of Ensono Mainframe Academy. It is going to take a village to replenish the mainframe talent pool!

Here’s an overview of our discussion and key takeaways at GSE Conference, setting out how businesses can attract, retain, and nurture mainframe talent – enabling organizations to make the most out of this important technology.

Why Mainframe?

Despite their traditional ‘legacy’ label, mainframes are still the foundations of much of modern IT. The technology’s reliability, security, and power to process huge quantities of data makes mainframes ideally suited to running mission-critical applications, from bank transactions to insurance records. Little wonder then that 67 of the Fortune 100 companies look to mainframe to run their IT environment. Mainframes currently handle an estimated 30 billion business transactions every day, with 92 of the top 100 banks, 4 of the top 5 airlines, and 7 of the top 10 global retailers all relying on the technology.

Many organizations are going through a process of modernization and integration of their mainframe estate. But the direction of travel is not towards mainframes being phased out. It is toward hybrid IT, bringing together the best of cloud and mainframe in a modernized IT infrastructure. Individuals with mainframe skills will continue to be in high demand to help guide this future.

A mainframe career is something that opens so many doors for someone in the tech industry although it can be daunting to those looking to enter.

Mainframe skills create opportunities to be integral to a business’s technology strategy. The number of roles available (and in high demand) range far and wide, from product development to capacity management, operations to compliance. The modernization and integration pathway for mainframe is also creating lots of opportunities for individuals with mainframe skills to help an organization bridge the gap between its technology ambitions and the previous limitations imposed by its IT estate.

Ensono Mainframe Academy

Given the importance of mainframe, it is imperative that businesses take steps to create a new generation of mainframe professionals to replenish the staffing gap and meet the new support requirements as the platform evolves.

Businesses need to act now to build a pathway in a mainframe career for workers that emphasises flexibility and diversity, providing them with a journey from learning skills through to opportunities in the workplace.

It is this vision that sits at the heart of Ensono’s Mainframe Academy. We are passionate about identifying, training, and retaining mainframe experts that have the ambition and skills to excel in a career in mainframe. Our program is tightly integrated into our company, with buy-in from global leadership, financial investment, dedicated leaders, participation from technical experts, and a training program that covers a range of mainframe disciplines in virtual and in-person settings.

The key to a successful mainframe academy program is to cast the net wide. Whatever skill level a prospective employee has, they should be able to join the program, be immediately challenged, and enter the workforce ready to tackle the world of mainframe and all the opportunities it has to offer.

At Ensono, we achieve this goal with multiple entry points into the program, with our US College Internships, our Global Fast Track, and internal promotion schemes. We then have a tiered training system to ensure each candidate receives a learning experience to match where they are on their journey with mainframe. This begins with building basic skills, to advancing their skills in a lab environment setting, and for the most successful candidates, making the leap to a permanent placement in the workforce.

Together, this end-to-end approach to building mainframe skills helps both prepare candidates for the demands of the working environment and feel the value of working in such a rewarding sector.

A Bright Future for Mainframe

Looking ahead, there are many new opportunities for mainframe. The process of integration and modernization is bringing mainframe in line with the needs of modern businesses; modern programming languages are, for example, increasingly able to be used on mainframe. Meanwhile, as businesses move workloads from mainframe to cloud, we will start to see mainframe becoming a platform for the deployment of next-generation technologies. There is set to be concerted work to improve efficiencies in the running of mainframes, driven by DevOps and self-service approaches.

All this will mean the opportunities for growth and carving a career path are only set to grow. Companies that provide training, mentorship and rewards every step of the way will ensure they prepare for the future of mainframe and reduce the impact of the mainframe talent shortage.

 

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