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As an information technology (IT) research analyst, I receive regular invites to industry events (because the event sponsors hope that I will share their stories with a broader audience). But my motivation for attending these events is to conduct information technology research. I have no qualms about approaching IT professionals whom I don’t know (including teachers, students, IT practitioners, IT executives and vendors) and asking their opinions of various technologies, products and industry trends. And a high percentage of these individuals are usually willing to share their opinions (as long as I don’t mention their organizations in my research).

One of my favorite events to attend is the SHARE user group meeting held twice a year at various locations in the United States. And the reason I enjoy this meeting so much is that a large number of seasoned IT professionals attend and speak at this event. These people are easy to approach, very knowledgeable and very candid.

Recently, the SHARE executive community asked me if I would be willing to do a little digging into what is “top-of-mind” amongst regular SHARE attendees when it comes to IT professional skills development. I responded enthusiastically that I would love to do this—primarily because I’ve written several reports on the IT skills situation (where business leaders worldwide constantly lament that there are too few skilled IT individuals to meet demand). A good summary of the issue can be found here in a report by Emily Stewart of the Australian Broadcast System broadcast on 9/26/2011: http://linkd.in/mWHxjS

The following is my assessment of IT skills in 2011—based on talking to business and government IT managers, teachers, students and vendors in the United States.

IT in 2011: Analyzing the Skills Shortage and Collaborating to Solve It

The argument goes something like this….with the aging of the US population, so goes the aging of the IT workforce. As seasoned IT professionals reach retirement age and leave the workforce, they are being replaced by recent graduates who want to focus on new “slick” technologies rather than learn about traditional IT architectures – “old” technologies like the mainframe. So, as these youngsters look for work that will build their resume and impress their friends, finding mainframe talent is becoming increasingly difficult for IT hiring managers. True? Yes and no. It is true that young IT professionals gravitate toward these new products and architectures. But at the same time, we have a population of college graduates who are facing one of the worst economic climates in recent memory – an economic climate that isn’t expected to improve for quite some time. So the reality is that they NEED JOBS! And anticipating the skills shortage in mainframe technologies, IT professors, IT business executives and IT vendors have been working together to mitigate the problem. They are collaborating to ensure that there will be skilled talent to fill mainframe jobs – that the education and training provided in colleges and universities will match up with hiring requirements. Let’s look at a couple examples:

SHARE

According to the SHARE Web site, “SHARE Inc. is an independent association providing enterprise technology professionals with continuous education and training, valuable professional networking and effective industry influence.” The members include many Fortune 500 companies, universities and colleges, government organizations and consultants. In partnership with IBM and IBM partners, one of SHARE’s primary goals is to nurture a new generation of IT professionals on the mainframe and supporting technologies, especially knowing that these technologies are not typically as widely taught in today’s schools. The zNextGen Project sponsored by SHARE, is a global user community specifically designed for prospective System z professionals with a wealth of available resources to support the development of system z IT skills. More information is available at http://bit.ly/boKFrt.

In August 2011, SHARE sponsored its bi-annual event in Orlando, Florida which was attended by more than 1,100 IT professionals. In a recent article, “Mainframe Technology in 2011 and Beyond; Who is Going to Run These Mainframes?”, Dr. Cameron Seay, Assistant Professor at North Carolina A&T State University, had this comment about the event, “… I attended SHARE in Orlando along with two of my students. They each came away with a stack of cards about four inches thick from companies wanting to hire them. (As crazy as it sounds; if I had three times as many students I could place each and every one of them, and that’s just the fact of the matter.)” Additional insights can be found in the complete article: http://bit.ly/q7WfqR.

IBM Academic Initiative System z program

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