4 September 2020 | Written by: Mark Bylok
Categorized: Business Development | Skills Development
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The traditional mainframe workforce is changing. For years, the mainframe skills shortage was a big topic of conversation, but there’s been a shift, and now recent graduates, IT novices and those looking to pivot their careers into technology are interested in developing skills on IBM Z and z/OS. Just as the mainframe itself has been modernized for the era of cloud and cognitive computing, IBM Z education has been modernized to work for the varied learning interests and styles of today’s students.
The need for IBM Z skills remains as essential as ever given that the platform is a foundational technology for many of the world’s largest banks, insurers, healthcare providers and government entities. It’s a perfect time to look at Z education and see how it has changed and what it offers to today’s learners.
There’s no one-size-fits-all education style
Students today vary widely in age, experience level and preferred approach to learning. We have mainframe students who are brand new to IBM Z and have never seen a mainframe console, and we have more experienced learners looking to hone advanced skills around cloud, security and resiliency. Regardless of age or experience level, attitudes towards classroom training haven’t changed: some people love it, some do it because they have to and others avoid it. For the latter two categories, there are far more options today than there were in the past. With the modernization of Z education, there are more digital, online and interactive ways of learning about the mainframe. IBM continues to offer Redbooks, live-instructor education (virtual and classroom, when possible), online manuals and traditional self-paced education. Students have options and can find the kind of training that works best for their needs.
Adapting Z education for the next generation
Online learning isn’t new. IBM has offered it for the past 15 years, often through live virtual classrooms hosted by an instructor. What’s changed, though, is the partnerships that IBM has the opportunity to expand into.
As an example, last year we produced content for Coursera for those looking to start a professional certificate in IBM Z. After several weeks of intensive training, graduates earn an IBM z/OS Practitioner badge. Coursera’s online platform is robust, but even more important, it has a large student base that’s diverse in terms of age and experience level. Some students are in high school, others in university and some are already in the workforce but looking for a career change. Details on the z/OS Practitioner certificate are available through Acclaim, and we have a similar badge for COBOL programming.
In the past, if you wanted IBM mainframe education, you had to work with IBM or an authorized training partner. Employers often paid for this education. Today, websites like Coursera provide an opportunity for people to be empowered in their own careers and come into job interviews with already relevant skills.
Z learning: The challenge and the promise
The biggest challenge in mainframe education remains awareness — how do we reach people and tell them about the career opportunities in IBM Z? And once they’re committed to an IBM Z learning path, how can we offer exposure to a mainframe for hands-on training?
When I started in IT in the late 1990s, IBM still had a green screen console for email. I was familiar with vi editor to edit emails and had an understanding of the quirky mainframe login process. Soon after I joined IBM, we changed our email client, but we still used console screens for HR tools, for example. Today, I never directly touch a mainframe screen; IBM Z servers are firmly in the background. That’s why the hands-on is such a key part of mainframe education today. Being able to provide actual time on a mainframe server helps things click. There are many ways to get this now, including the z/OS Mainframe Practitioner Coursera course, the IBM Skills Gateway and projects like Master the Mainframe being offered by IBM.
Where to start learning
No matter how you get your mainframe education, whether it’s self-paced, in a formal classroom or through IBM Redbooks, there are many terrific options out there today. To start your IBM Z learning journey, visit our website.