The University of Alabama at Birmingham has partnered with major local businesses to create a new program focused on tackling a skills gap when it comes to mainframe technologies.

The Enterprise Systems Certificate, a program done in collaboration with the Information Systems and Quantitative Methods Department in the Collat School of Business, is designed to help students and working professionals help better understand the use and operation of mainframe technologies.

Many people who started IT careers in the 1970’s and 1980’s, when the mainframes were extremely prominent, are now approaching retirement, and the generations behind them have trained in different computing platforms, leaving a massive age and training gap.

One reason stems from the fact that many colleges no longer teach traditional mainframe technology. UAB intends to address that shortage and prepare a new generation of professionals to succeed in mainframe careers.

"We are excited to be able to launch this certificate program that will prepare our students for in-demand careers," said Molly Wasko, associate dean of research, innovation and faculty success in the Collat School of Business. "Through the partnership of local companies, our students are able to receive the necessary training that will allow them to easily transition into the workforce, where there is a real need for qualified applicants."

Mainframe technology, also known as 'big computing,' is responsible for daily operations of many global corporations. Approximately 90 percent of Fortune 500 companies depend on the original IBM mainframe for computing services, as well as 92 percent of the top 100 global banks and nearly all credit card transactions.

Many local companies rely on mainframes, such as Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama, Regions Bank and Protective Life Corporation.

"We need skilled talent to support this very important platform, and we look to academic programs like UAB’s to help supply those resources," said Wendy Evesque, Protective Life chief human resources officer.

Mainframe technology will not be out of existence anytime in the foreseeable future, and there are estimates that there will be more than 84,000 open positions in the field by 2020.