The job market is flooded with young IT’ers who have Microsoft certifications in networks, databases and office software. This is good news for enterprises, because nearly everyone runs their office with these products, and there isn’t a company out there that doesn’t have PCs and Intel-based servers to manage.
But there is also that “other” side of the enterprise that runs 70 percent of the world’s mission-critical processing systems on mainframes. Here, dollars and cents add up in thousands of transactions per second. Systems must be 24/7 available and processing must be right every time. It is also here that universities are being asked to provide fresh, young talent.
“I like to use the Visa example,” said David Dischiave, Assistant Professor and Program Director of the Masters in Information Management at Syracuse (www.syr.edu). “I tell students that Visa processed over 62.5 billion credit card transactions last year, and I then ask them how they would create an IT solution that can handle all of this? Initially, students come in and are used to solving relatively small problems on their iPhones or iPads. They have never been exposed to anything this big, so they first think that all you have to do is throw a bunch of PCs at the problem. Coming in, they have no idea about the complexity of the problem and the systems needed to manage it.”
Students may not understand the problem—but enterprises do. Increasingly, they are asking universities to produce IT graduates who are prepared to run their most critical systems. At Letterkenny Institute of Technology in Ireland http://www.lyit.ie/, Allstate Insurance approached the school to teach a new set of “enterprise-ready” skills. “We are a large employer in Ireland,” said Louis Magee, Allstate HR Manager. “We were seeing a skills shortage in mainframe programmers, so we approached Letterkenny to offer what we needed, and we also got our technical people involved.” The result was an enterprise-level technology education program. Letterkenny continues to work closely with Allstate and other local employers in the planning and delivery of enterprise computing curriculum, and also with IBM’s Academic Initiative Program https://www.ibm.com/developerworks/university/academicinitiative/. These enterprises offer internships and permanent employment to graduates.
Despite these efforts, however, the academic community still recognizes that isolated program offerings will not be enough to meet enterprises’ needs in their most mission-critical computing areas.
One obstacle is the knowledge base of college and university technology professors and instructors. “Colleagues who have spent their careers teaching on other computing platforms and in a laboratory and research context aren’t fully aware of the major role that the mainframe plays in enterprises, or of enterprises’ needs for new mainframe talent,” said Professor Wilhelm Spruth of the University of Leipzig http://www.zv.uni-leipzig.de/en/. “In the past, this lack of awareness created difficulties.”
Universities also face obstacles in getting new technology programs approved and funded. One of Letterkenny’s goals is to leverage its enterprise technology education by offering online learning that students at other educational institutions in Ireland can participate in. In Germany, similar efforts are underway. In the U.S., the University of Arkansas www.uark.edu now offers enterprise education in an online format that students from other institutions can take, receiving credit for these courses at their “home” universities. Institutions that have incorporated Arkansas’ online enterprise education in their curricula include the University of Delaware, the University of California-Chico and the University of Cincinnati.
Leveraging online learning—and federating curricula by incorporating online courses from other universities into their own programs--allow schools that are experiencing difficulties with new program funding and deployment to move forward with critical enterprise technology training. Enterprises are noticing. “We are seeing close to 100 percent employment placement of our enterprise technology graduates,” said Michael Karey, Lecturer in Computing and Business Studies at Letterkenny, “It seems that we can’t get enough students to them fast enough.”
Mary E. Shacklett is president of Transworld Data, a technology research and marketing/public relations firm. Her technology experience includes positions as vice president of Software Development at Summit Information Systems, a financial systems software company, and vice president of Strategic Planning and Technology at FSI International, a multi-national semiconductor company. She has been actively involved in the publishing industry for more than 20 years as an editor and writer. Voice: 360-956-9536; Email: TWD_Transworld@msn.com