The professional I.T. cadre that cut its MIS teeth on the IBM 360 mainframe, unveiled in the 1960s, is beginning to retire, and there aren't enough young people around with the skills to replace them. To meet the challenge, IBM and Share, an IBM user group, have launched a program to develop the talent to fill the 20,000 mainframe positions that are expected to become available as the long-serving operators of the machines leave the workforce. IBM expects that its program, dubbed "zNextGen," will produce 10,000 mainframe-literate professionals in China alone.
The program will make technical and other resources available to IT students and young professionals interested in careers in IBM mainframe computing. Mainframe skills in particular demand now are Java, Linux, and services-oriented architecture skills. "An experienced technical person can make $70,000 to $80,000," Share president Robert Rosen says. "Someone with management skills can make $100,000 or more. It's all moving toward becoming a seller's market."
Pledging to train 20,000 IT professionals by 2010, IBM is strengthening its IBM Academic Initiative Program for the Mainframe at more than 150 universities around the world, including schools in Poland and Australia. In China, IBM already has donated modern mainframe equipment to seven universities. Rosen points to the success of the IBM-supported program at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., near IBM's mainframe headquarters, and at Northern Illinois University. Says Rosen, "Their graduates are snapped up quickly."