University Perspective

Just a week ago, I had the chance to record two podcasts all about the work being done by universities and industy to tackle the talent shortage in our field.

In this podcast, we chat about higher education’s involvement in overcoming the talent shortage and the great work universities are doing to bridge the gap. Our guests are veterans of the education and mainframe industries who are passionate about sharing their knowledge and experiences with students, ensuring that the legacy of mainframe technology continues to thrive.

At the heart of this story are the dedicated educators at Northern Illinois University, where the Department of Computer Science has been teaching mainframe technology and programming languages for over 50 years. With a focus on imparting industry experience and showcasing the importance of mainframe technology, these instructors are preparing students for the dynamic world of tech.

But the real star of this narrative may be Angelo, a recent graduate who found his passion for mainframe technology through the mentorship of his professor. His journey from being a computer science major to becoming a Cobol application developer at US Foods is a testament to the value and impact of the mainframe program at NIU.

Despite the success stories, there are challenges to overcome. The frustration of seeing companies struggling to find mainframe talent, despite the pool of skilled graduates, is a call to action. It’s a reminder that the next generation of mainframers needs opportunities and support from companies looking to secure their place in the evolving world of technology.

This session sheds light on the inspiring efforts being made to nurture and sustain the mainframe talent pipeline. It’s a reminder that the world of mainframe technology is not just about dusty old systems, but a vibrant and essential part of the tech landscape. With the dedication of industry experts, educators, and students, the future of mainframe technology is in good hands. Stay curious!

Transcription available below:

[00:00:04] – Intro
Welcome to the Planet Mainframe podcast, your gateway to the forefront of technology in the digital age. Join us as we dive deep into the heart of tech innovation, where industry experts and thought leaders gather to explore the ever evolving world of mainframes and beyond. In each episode, we’ll unravel the complexities of the digital realm, dissecting the technology that shapes our lives. From giants of mainframe computing to the latest breakthroughs in AI, cybersecurity, and more, we’re here to guide you through it all. Our mission is clear to bring you the brightest minds, the boldest ideas, and the most captivating stories from the dynamic world of tech. Whether you’re a tech veteran or simply tech curious, get ready to embark on this enriching journey with us. So fasten your seatbelts for a world of knowledge, innovation, and inspiration. Welcome to the Planet Mainframe podcast.

[00:00:54] – Amanda Hendley (Host)
We are talking about how universities are tackling the mainframe talent issue. I have a few guests with me today, Greg Debo, Angelo LeDonne, and Geoffrey Decker. So thank you for joining me today. Before we get started, I was hoping y’all could give us a brief introduction of yourself and what you do and how you’re kind of involved in this world. Let’s start with you, Greg.

[00:01:23] – Greg Debo
Okay, yeah. My name is Greg Debo. I’m a principal consultant at a company called Team Swami. And officially, we do mainframe modernization consulting work for companies. But one of the big things that we also do is work with a lot of universities in Illinois. We are all right now retired mainframers that had very long and prosperous careers on the mainframe. And we want to get out and tell our story to students to make sure students understand what a career in the mainframe is really about, as opposed to what they’ve been hearing for the last 15 to 20 years. So we work with a lot of the universities to do that.

[00:02:06] – Geoffrey Decker
I’m Geoffrey Decker, and I’m an instructor at Northern Illinois University, and I’ve been here for 22 and a half years. I love teaching mainframe primarily. I also teach some more modern technology, like Android mobile device programming. But mainframe has always been my main interest. I worked for eleven years in industry between 1990 and 2001 before I came back to teach. So one of the things I think is important to give to my students is some of that industry experience and also show them how important the mainframe is and what opportunities there exist out there.

[00:02:47] – Angelo LeDonne
Hi, I’m Angelo LeDonne. I’m a recent graduate from Northern Illinois University. I’ve worked with Mr. Decker for the past about three years. He was my professor and mentor, and now I am a COBOL application developer at US Foods.

[00:03:03] – Amanda Hendley (Host)
Well, thanks so much for being here. As I said, I really want to explore how universities are tackling the mainframe talent issue. We publish a lot of articles at Planet Mainframe, and you’re constantly reading about this talent shortage, but little do a lot of people know that there is actually a great pipeline of talent coming out of university. And it’s something that I think we should talk about so others can learn more about the programs, the talent that’s coming out, and how it can be utilized. Geoffrey, why don’t you tell us a Little bit about the program at Northern Illinois?

[00:03:48] – Geoffrey Decker
The Northern Illinois University Department of Computer Science has been teaching mainframe technology, mainframe programming languages now for probably 50 years, I don’t know, since the inception of the department, it was actually the math department before, but in the 1980s, it became its own entity. And NIU has been famous for its, or legendary, actually for its mainframe program and all over the United States. And my mentor was Dr. Robert Ranny, who was definitely a legend systems programmer who was one of the very most active people in the share organization, which is the IBM oldest IBM user group. And so I’ve kind of taken over from him in teaching the mainframe stuff at NIU, there’s one other teacher that teaches it, but there’s just the two of us he teaches. The other one is actually a graduate student finishing his phd in something that’s not mainframe. So when he leaves, we got to find somebody else to take his place. But we still teach COBOL. I still teach assembler. Mainframe. Assembler, IBM 370 system 370 assembler. You have to start somewhere. So we start in the 24 bit addressing environment and teach them just the basics of assembler and so forth.

[00:05:15] – Geoffrey Decker
And then I teach COBOL as much as I can fit into about eight weeks in my advanced mainframe class. And I have a lot of students that come to the class, the first assembler class, it’s required of all of our majors, at least for the time being. And they come to it not understanding anything about mainframe and not looking forward to taking assembler because it’s a really hard class, it’s a really hard language, and everybody poo poos it in the hallways and says, “oh my god you don’t want to take this”, but they all have to. And it’s a good thing because I do everything I can as an IBM mainframe evangelist to turn them onto it and tell them why they’re taking it, and it seems to work with a lot of students. This semester, I have probably 75 students in mainframe classes. I’ve got two sections of 361 of my advanced mainframe class. So a lot of those students get an interest, but then they’re not sought after by the companies that are out there looking for people for mainframe. And I’ll never understand mean, it’s. I’ve complained all over LinkedIn about it, and it’s fortunate.

[00:06:31] – Geoffrey Decker
We’re fortunate that we have people like Greg Debo that come to NIU and help me evangelize, actually, and also put us in connection with companies in the Chicagoland area and around the company, I mean, around the country. And finally, there is a lot of interest, but a lot of these students are looking for internships when they finish either a 360 or the upper level class, and also even looking for permanent positions. So it’s really frustrating to me that there are a lot of companies that don’t come to us. Come to me and say, how can we help keep the mainframe curriculum on the menu? And how can we help your students find out about us and get hired by us? And I was talking before with you about companies always saying, we want three to five years. They want beginners. But then they say HR speak comes up, and it says three to five years of experience required. And that’s just ridiculous. But I can brag that my students come out of the program, and Angelo can attest to this. They come out of our program knowing the basics and being able to step into the job and actually do the work, unlike some other college classes that people take, it’s very different.

[00:07:56] – Geoffrey Decker
These guys are hands on. I really run them through. I guess you can run them through the mill. I don’t know what you could say, but they can do the work.

[00:08:08] – Amanda Hendley (Host)
Greg, tell me a little bit how you got looped into this.

[00:08:12] – Greg Debo
So, like I said, I had a long career on the mainframe, and I’m commonly termed a dinosaur. That’s what they call us, old mainframers. I had a great career, and I just want students to understand how good of a career they can have, too. There’s a lot of people my age that graduated in the, went to western Illinois University, but my brother graduated from Northern Illinois University through that program. And there’s a lot of people my age that are getting ready to retire in the next five years. And mainframe companies have to start thinking ahead instead of waiting until they retire and bring people in and train them. And a lot of companies, they’re waiting till people retire. And then, like Geoffrey said, looking for people that can step in with three to five years of experience. There’s just not that many experienced people out there because companies weren’t hiring them for such a long time. So we’re also working with a lot of companies that have intern programs. Insono is one that’s going to be publishing their needs for next summer. My former employer is a large insurance company that has a huge intern program that has brought in a number from NIU and from Illinois State University.

[00:09:40] – Greg Debo
And then we’ve been working from Levi Ray and Schup in Springfield that has brought in some interns, and Department of Information technology or Innovation and Technology for the state of Illinois that also has been bringing more and more students in. So there are companies that are doing just, in my opinion, there’s not enough that are looking at developing students instead of hiring from other companies that have developed.

[00:10:11] – Amanda Hendley (Host)
And Angelo, so you’re completely different point of view on all of were. Tell me about, were you a student that went into it going, I’m going to learn mainframe, or were you romanced and drafted into the program? Tell me a little bit about your experience there.

[00:10:30] – Angelo LeDonne
Yeah, so I was going into college as a computer science major. I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do. I just knew I liked computers. I started programming around 6th grade. Kind of just wanted to get in the field in general. NIU had a great program. It was really close to home. I decided that that was the program I was going to go with. And I found out that there was three different emphasis that I could choose from. And it actually wasn’t up until the two summers prior that I actually met with Decker for the first time in his summer assembly class. And I heard him talk, I think it was probably within the first week about the retirement rates and the amount of jobs that are still out there and how many companies really rely on the mainframe and these different developers. And that was something that really sparked an interest in my head of, this is going to be something that might turn into a problem in the future if we don’t have this new generation coming in and taking over these jobs. I know that during the COVID pandemic, there was the issue in the Social Security office in New Jersey, I believe, where they had some COBOL program running for decades and decades, and everything blew up.

[00:11:51] – Angelo LeDonne
And they had to pay a lot of retired folks big, big money to come in and fix their problems because they had nobody that knew how to program on these systems anymore. And the only way that they were going to dig themselves out of that hole was to pay somebody big money to come out of retirement, take off their pajamas, and come do something. So I definitely was. Probably my first experience was that summer. And then ever since then, I was always in Decker’s office working on something with the mainframe. And that was what ultimately led me to choosing the enterprise technology route. And ever since then, I’ve fallen in love with it, for sure.

[00:12:31] – Geoffrey Decker
He also did his Capstone project in mainframe, a big chunk, and I mentored him through that. It’s been great.

[00:12:41] – Amanda Hendley (Host)
Tell me how this program. Is this a degree program, or is it a certificate? Tell me a little bit more about how that’s structured.

[00:12:51] – Geoffrey Decker
Yeah, so it’s a degree. My degree is technically computer science, but the three different emphasis at NIU is computational software development and then enterprise technology. So if you go into the enterprise technology, the requirements were similar to software development. You had to take a couple business courses, and you were required to take the upper level mainframe course, the COBOL development and JCL course. That was kind of what sets everything else apart. Other than that, it’s really a computer science degree, just with a little bit more of specialty in whichever platform you prefer.

[00:13:32] – Amanda Hendley (Host)
Geoffrey, or know you “Decker”, you came in with some industry experience. Is that a common thing that you’ve got with the instructors in this program?

[00:13:44] – Geoffrey Decker
Absolutely not. When I first came in, there were some professors in the department, including my mentor, Robert Ranny, that did have industry experience. Dr. Robert Ranny was a systems programmer at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory back in the 1960s. And then when he left that in 1983, I think it was, he came to NIU. So he had definite experience. It wasn’t necessarily industry. It was in a scientific research industry, I guess you could say. But it’s very important to bring that industry experience to NIU, and I feel really lucky that I can impart that to my students. But of course, I’ve not been in that realm for 23 years now. So things have really changed. But the basics about how mainframes are being used hasn’t really changed. One of the things that I’m thankful for is that there are members of our staff of our department faculty, and most of them are professors or associate professors that are part of the undergraduate curriculum committee. And there was talk a few years ago, and it’s been going on for a long time, actually, that they wanted to close down the requirement of every student to take assembler.

[00:15:11] – Geoffrey Decker
They wanted to close down the enterprise track for a degree emphasis. In fact, the undergraduate curriculum committee had made the changes and written them all up, and they were prepared to submit it to the university. And then it has to be approved by several other levels of officials so that they could change the curriculum for the department. But fortunately, or unfortunately, the pandemic came along and it put everything behind, thank goodness. So those changes have not been implemented. I don’t even know if they’ve been submitted at this point. I asked to be able to attend the meetings of the undergraduate curriculum committee, but nobody approved that because they know how much I would fight for the mainframe curriculum, and they wanted it done more or less kind of behind the scenes to get rid of it, that is. So, in the meantime, Harper College in Palatine, Illinois, came along and said, we’d like you to teach mainframe technology at college. So these are students that are enrolled at Harper College that are actually taking NIU computer science classes. And two of the classes they asked for were my two mainframe classes, and I’ve been teaching those.

[00:16:35] – Geoffrey Decker
I continue to teach them now every semester. So that’s a really good sign. And it may have stopped the removal of the mainframe curriculum from NIU’s department of computer science. So we’re lucky in that respect, I think. And who knows how much longer it’ll go? Hopefully forever.

[00:16:59] – Greg Debo
I was just going to say, and that’s part of the reason that on LinkedIn and some of the other emails, I said, I kind of obnoxiously, at times, tag people at NIU. And I’ve tried to get some of the upper level people at NIU to come to some of the events that we’ve had, just so they can see the number of students that come and the number of companies that come to their university that are interested in the students. The interest is really good. Yeah, it hasn’t been easy to get those people to come, but I think was two years ago, we had like ten companies come for one of our events sponsored by IBM. Yeah. So we’ve had great turnout at some of those events, but getting some of the people in charge of the university to come and actually attend those to see the amount of interest has been a challenge.

[00:17:55] – Geoffrey Decker
I think they’re finally seeing it. I think they’re finally seeing it. And being on LinkedIn has really helped. And I try to post as much as I can because I know there are people from NIU that are connected with me on LinkedIn, and I’m sure they’re seeing it, whether it’s influencing them, I don’t know, but I really hope so.

[00:18:19] – Greg Debo
And now that you’re an IBM champion, they’re probably jealous.

[00:18:22] – Geoffrey Decker
Yes, I hope they are. Yeah. It’s really important that we keep the program going, because I’ve put a lot into it, and those that came before me put a lot into it. And I’ve kind of distilled the subject matter that I teach, especially in the upper level course, down to what I think is really necessary at the beginning level of mainframe, so that these people know how to do what they need to do. It’s not perfect. I wish I had a second semester of the upper level course so we could do some more assembler and systems programming, but it’s not happened and probably won’t.

[00:19:03] – Greg Debo
But I think it’s really a big responsibility on companies like ours and many of the others that come to talk to students. There’s so much more happening on the mainframe than assembler and COBOL.

[00:19:16] – Geoffrey Decker
That’s right.

[00:19:17] – Greg Debo
No way that you can cover all that in a class.

[00:19:20] – Geoffrey Decker
I try to talk about it at know.

[00:19:22] – Greg Debo
Yeah. That’s why I think it’s important for companies like ours and IBM and Broadcom and others to talk about all the exciting new things happening on the platform with artificial intelligence, with some of the things they’re doing with cybersecurity. There’s just so many exciting things happening with the platform that the students, once they hear about it, I think it gets them more excited.

[00:19:46] – Geoffrey Decker
Sadly, one of the things I use to get them interested is, I say, if you learn COBOL and you learn the basics of assembler, but especially COBOL, that can get you in the front door of lots of different companies around the country. And if that company that you get in the front door with is running a mainframe, that means they’re doing everything else. They’re doing Android and iOS. They’re doing Java FX, front end development. They’re doing everything. So if you don’t really like what you’re doing in mainframe, you have the chance to transfer within the corporation or the company.

[00:20:19] – Greg Debo

[00:20:21] – Geoffrey Decker
Yeah. So I say this is a good thing to put on your resume and get your foot in the door somewhere that you might be interested. They’re big companies, though. These are big companies. They’re banks and insurance agencies or companies and big healthcare companies and that sort of thing that are doing mainframe. But the world’s economy runs on the mainframe, and I just have to get that across.

[00:20:46] – Amanda Hendley (Host)
Yeah, I think there’s obviously exceptions to the rule, but if you think about a lot of these companies, maybe smaller tech firms or those that have different technologies, they tend to have to be more reactive to the market. You’ll see mass layoffs happening, but you have a lot of firms, like the ones that are using mainframe. It might just be coincidental in some respects, but they’re pretty stable. Like, they know what they need in order to operate and run. They’re not trying to scale like crazy. And that’s what I think provides a level of stability in your job where you’re not all of a sudden worried that Acme Co. Mobile App hired 200% too many people this year, and they’re not going to let them all go.

[00:21:47] – Geoffrey Decker
And these companies are all old companies. They’re well established companies. They’ve got mainframe data that stretches back to the. They’re not volatile in their employment almost always. And they need people that know not only the business, but how to apply it to the mainframe software and the mainframe technology. And it’s constantly changing.

[00:22:12] – Greg Debo
Yeah. And you mentioned in the country, but you can’t forget that it’s really an international thing. It’s huge in Europe. Mainframe is huge in Europe. Bank of China, bank of.

[00:22:27] – Geoffrey Decker
Yeah, yeah. They can’t find people.

[00:22:29] – Greg Debo

[00:22:30] – Geoffrey Decker
So this is a worldwide epidemic of some sort. It’s a drought. It’s a serious drought. A family that we can’t find enough young people to do the programming when all of us are gone. Not gone, but retired.

[00:22:50] – Amanda Hendley (Host)
Angelo, I want to hear about your experience in the program and finding an internship and getting into a job after graduating.

[00:23:02] – Angelo LeDonne
Yeah. So my main source was LinkedIn the job postings. This is something that actually I kind of started to put in front of Mr. Decker’s eyes, because I was looking for an internship coming up to my junior year, and I was just applying to everything that had entry level, everything that had internship in it. And I finally stumbled across the US foods posting for a COBOL intern. And that was the only internship that I could find on all of LinkedIn job postings that had anything to do with the mainframe. So I threw my application in, didn’t expect much. And I got lucky enough that I got a call back. And once I got into the role this past summer, I was thrown right into the deep end. I was working straight up on the green screen. I was working in the emulators. I was doing real work on the mainframe that was affecting our customers across the nation. Everything. And I am extremely lucky in the fact that I found that. And I wasn’t aware of planet mainframe until, I think right after I got accepted for that internship. But that would have been a fantastic resource to find mainframe specific job postings.

[00:24:27] – Angelo LeDonne
But it was definitely a stroke of luck, and I’ve been loving the position. Now I’m going on week two, and nothing’s really changed. I was doing the same work as an intern that I’m doing now. I’m all the way neck deep into all of it, and I couldn’t be happier. I know that a lot of the new kids coming out want to do the machine learning, and the AI and little do they know, there’s a lot of stuff on the mainframe that’s doing that as well. But nobody talks about that. They think of the big black box that’s sitting in some dusty old basement, and they don’t want to think about the mainframe. They want to think about doing their machine learning with their quantum computers on their new x 86 without realizing that IBM is still putting out new tech for the mainframes. They just got the telem chip. They’re doing all types of innovative things that could blow any one of these other servers or computers out of the water that these companies are trying to switch to. And it’s just something that people really need to see, and some of these new students really need to recognize coming out of college.

[00:25:36] – Amanda Hendley (Host)
Right. I mean, I think it’s a technology that people think is defining of an organization. But you would never look at a company running on cloud and think that cloud is defining their organization. So it’s a little bit of a. I don’t know why someone might think that, because that is it. That’s all there is to it. You’ve got technologies now that are making the mainframe just so integral in everything else that they’re doing. The ability to now connect your mainframe to anything. There’s no question on that.

[00:26:27] – Angelo LeDonne
Yeah, it’s absolutely insane. I know at us foods personally, we have everything running through the IBM. Basically, we are the core, and it’s something that’s really nice that I get to work on, something that’s so impactful to the company. But also, when you think about it, you’re thinking of a food company that does deliveries and whatnot. You’re not thinking of mainframe technology, but any technology in that company would be insane. They’re working on, just like, as Decker mentioned earlier, they’re working on Android development. They’re working on iOS development. They’re doing cloud. It’s just the mainframe is always kind of pushed to the back, and nobody kind of thinks about it. When they kind of go around and want to get a job out of college, they want something a little fresh, not realizing that they could step into a role in the mainframe and be a part of something that matters and also move around. I know that my company, they have no problem. If I wanted to go and learn Java development, I could do that while I’m learning the mainframe, and I could do Java development on the mainframe, even.

[00:27:37] – Amanda Hendley (Host)
Yeah, I think that in a way, too. It’s all kind of part of that overarching package of what you can offer, and that’s what makes you a key employee in today’s market. If you’ve got all of these different skills, then fantastic. It certainly differentiates, I think, today’s enterprise tech employee from maybe yesterday’s, where they were very siloed and singular focused. And now you have to really know your stuff all around the space. So I know we don’t have a ton of time today, but I was hoping that I could get, maybe from Angelo and Geoffrey advice to students that are considering enrolling in a similar program. Or maybe we’ve piqued their interest that a mainframe career is something they should do. What would be the advice you’d give?

[00:28:44] – Angelo LeDonne
I would definitely say it’s worth at least trying. I know that Decker had said earlier, that assembly course is the dreaded course at NIU. I was a teaching assistant for the past two semesters that I was there as the assembler teaching assistant and really getting into it. I just learned to love it. And honestly, I feel like it made me an overall better programmer. Even if it’s somebody that’s not going to be going into any enterprise tech, if they think that they want to go and be a front end developer or do something like that. Learning assembler, even if it’s as IBM assembler, you’re learning how to manage the system at literally the lowest level, humanly readable. I mean, you’re getting down to the very nitty gritty, and I think that’s a great opportunity for any student to really get in there. I know that IBM offers all of those wonderful badges and whatnot. I had my resume studded with them. That was such a fun learning experience. I got to know more about IBM itself. I got to know more about the tech world. I got to know more about just systems programming. And that’s something that’s valuable as an employee at any software development company.

[00:29:59] – Angelo LeDonne
If you know how to think logically and develop, you will be successful and you’ll be valuable.

[00:30:07] – Geoffrey Decker
Yeah. I’ll tell you what I just posted on LinkedIn. That I’m really mad that there’s companies out there that I know need people. But more importantly, I have students that are ready for internships, and they’re ready for careers, and they’re not getting those opportunities. And it makes me, I’m afraid to say, madder than hell because of this. I tell students from the beginning that the career is out there and that they’re going to be very well needed and they’re going to be very well paid. But then the connection, there’s no connection with these companies that say and whine and cry that they need help, and yet they’re not coming to me with these internships and these opportunities for my students. And that’s got to stop. They can’t embarrass me. Any know, Greg, I’m sure, is in total agreement that you have no right to sit out there and cry that you can’t find mainframers. When my mainframers that come out of the program, I call them mine. They’re not mine. They earn their degrees, but the mainframers that come out, they’re ready to go to work. And some of them are really enthusiastic. But I got an email from a student that graduated two years ago the other day saying he can’t find a job.

[00:31:33] – Geoffrey Decker
He can’t find a mainframe job. NIU used to have 100% placement of all of our mainframe grads. 100% placement. I don’t know what it is now. It’s still pretty good, but this has got to stop. These companies need to contact us and Greg and those universities around Illinois that he’s been working with and hire these people and invest in these departments, invest in these programs and keep them going. Otherwise, we’re all going to be in trouble. We’re all going to be in trouble because the world’s economy is going to collapse or something. I don’t know. But I need help, and my students, more importantly, need help. I can’t emphasize that more. And I’m sick of hearing the excuses, or I’m sick of not hearing from them. The program’s good. It’s solid. Angelo can attest to that. He’s a testament of it. And something’s got to happen. What do you.

[00:32:41] – Greg Debo
I mean, I agree. Every time I see somebody post on LinkedIn about, they’re looking at moving off the mainframe because they can’t find mainframe skills. I always challenge them, and of course, I never hear anything back because I think a lot of it is consulting companies putting that in their ear because they want them to move off the mainframe. But it’s very frustrating. And I view myself as a mainframe matchmaker. I’m trying to connect kids to companies, and I don’t get paid for it, but I do that as part of my job is to make sure the next generation gets an opportunity, wouldn’t you say?

[00:33:22] – Geoffrey Decker
There’s probably 85% of the companies that try to move off of the mainframe fail and fail miserably and fail with spending a lot of money that nobody has. It affects the bottom line so greatly. I always say, why fix something that isn’t broken? The mainframe runs efficiently, the software runs better than anything in most cases. Is mainframe modernization important? Absolutely. But replacing all the COBOL code with Java is not what I would consider the core of mainframe modernization. Maybe I’m wrong in that.

[00:34:05] – Greg Debo
I think you’re right. I think there’s a lot of different definitions of what mainframe modernization means. Most companies can modernize and stay on the mainframe. If they want to move to Java, that’s fine. That’s their choice. Java runs on the mainframe just fine. Python runs on the mainframe just fine. Zlinux has huge opportunities for companies to consolidate servers. One of the challenges, IBM doesn’t talk about it. And I’ve gotten on some IBM executives about that, because, you see, you can’t go a day without seeing an AWS commercial. Google’s always talking about Google Cloud, but IBM never talks about the mainframe publicly. And that’s why so many students going to college don’t understand what the mainframe even is.

[00:34:59] – Geoffrey Decker
Yeah, they talk about the cloud, IBM cloud. And that’s about.

[00:35:05] – Greg Debo
I mean, it’s a challenge we’re going to continue to fight.

[00:35:12] – Geoffrey Decker
Yeah, I love mainframe. I love mainframe languages. I love mainframe technology. And as long as there are people like me and Greg and Angelo and it’s, and Cameron say, and some of the others, it’s going to stay around at least as long as we’re active. And I plan to be active for a long time from now, and it’s going to be about mainframe, God willing.

[00:35:36] – Greg Debo
And I love Db2. You should teach more DB two.

[00:35:39] – Geoffrey Decker
I would love to if I had the time. Second semester, cics and DB two, you bet. Just not enough time in two semesters.

[00:35:51] – Amanda Hendley (Host)
Well, this is great. I appreciate you all giving me some time and telling me more about the program. I think it’s incredibly valuable to learn about something like this, because being in the same boat you all are, where you hear the commentary about there aren’t enough people and the workforce is retiring and what are we going to do? It’s refreshing to hear that we’re going to have this new generation coming into the space. And along with that, I’m also hearing some great stories about companies that are making sure that they’re engaging the retiring generation with the newest generation coming in and bridging that gap so that institutional knowledge isn’t lost. Because I think that’s probably a big fear for these companies, too.

[00:36:48] – Geoffrey Decker
It’s like Yoda teaching Skywalker, these old guys teaching the young. And that’s like the optimal thing to do. It’s honorable. It’s being a mentor, an ancient mentor. And it’s important, it really is, to make these young students part of the force. And that’s what we need.

[00:37:10] – Greg Debo
But the companies have to hire them before the older people retire.

[00:37:14] – Geoffrey Decker

[00:37:15] – Greg Debo
To give them a chance to do that.

[00:37:16] – Geoffrey Decker
And they’ve not been doing it. They’ve not been doing it. They’ve got to start. I mean, they should have started 10-20 years ago, actually 15 years ago, but now they’re all panicking, yet they’re still not implementing the hiring and the internships. Go figure. I know they’re busy. I know they’re busy trying to maintain.

[00:37:41] – Amanda Hendley (Host)
Let’s hope that learning more about programs like this really does create that visibility.

[00:37:48] – Geoffrey Decker
I hope.

[00:37:48] – Amanda Hendley (Host)
Well, I want to thank you for being a part of the podcast today. We’ll make sure that we get some links posted online, too, so that people can find out more about the program and be able to reach out to you with questions that they have.

[00:38:04] – Geoffrey Decker
That’s great.

[00:38:04] – Greg Debo
Be awesome.

[00:38:06] – Amanda Hendley (Host)
All right.

[00:38:07] – Geoffrey Decker
Thank you for having us.

[00:38:08] – Amanda Hendley (Host)
Thank you so much.

[00:38:10] – Greg Debo
Thanks, Amanda.

[00:38:11] – Angelo LeDonne
Thank you.

[00:38:12] – Geoffrey Decker
Bye bye.

[00:38:13] – Greg Debo
Bye bye.

[00:38:23] – Outro
Thank you for tuning in to another enlightening episode of the Planet Mainframe podcast. We hope you’ve gained valuable insights and discovered new horizons in the world of technology. This is the Planet Mainframe podcast signing off. Stay curious.

Amanda Hendley is the Managing Editor of Planet Mainframe and  Co-host of the iTech-Ed Mainframe User Groups.  She has always been a part of the technology community having spent eleven years at Technology Association of Georgia and six years at Computer Measurement Group. Amanda is a Georgia Tech graduate and enjoys spending her free time renovating homes and volunteering with  in Atlanta, Georgia.

One thought on “Bridging the Gap: How Universities are Proactively Addressing the Mainframe Talent Shortage”
  1. Great article! As a university professor, I’m glad to see that more institutions are recognizing the importance of mainframe education and taking proactive steps to address the talent shortage. The industry needs skilled professionals who can design, develop, and maintain mission-critical systems, and it’s crucial that we invest in their training and development. I’ll definitely share this post with my colleagues to encourage further discussion and collaboration.

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