A recent survey by Compuware1 is one of the latest reports to confirm that organizations are facing a serious mainframe-skills shortage. The survey has found that the CIOs of many organizations are concerned about a looming shortage of mainframe-qualified people in the workforce. This shortage presents an opportunity for those looking to study or work in the IT field, and suggests that mainframe skills will be highly sought after in the job market.

Driving Factors

The Compuware survey of 350 organizations around the world showed that the key driving factor behind the expected shortage is the impending retirement of those with mainframe skills and experience.

Around two-thirds (66%) of CIOs were concerned that the trend would negatively impact their business by harming the capacity of their organization to use and maintain legacy applications. As many as 61% believed it to be a primary concern. Some 61% of respondents said that there would be an increase application risk. The same number of respondents believed that it would lead to lower productivity, while 51% believed that there would be a higher incidence of project overruns.

The survey found that while CIOs were concerned, many organizations had no specific plan for address the risks associated with the retiring mainframe workforce and the lack of a replacement workforce.

Some 40% of CIOs stated that they had no formal plan in place to address the risks. However, this appears to be an improvement on the previous survey in 2011, which found that 46% of CIOs had no specific plan in place. Hence, those with the necessary mainframe skills and experiences are closer to retirement age; yet, many organizations are not acting on the issue with a proactive strategy.

The Vital Role of Mainframe Systems

Mainframe systems are commonly used in industries such as banking, finance and telecommunications. Organizations in these industries typically run their core applications on mainframes.

The Compuware survey found that 81% of CIO respondents held the belief that mainframes will still be a major business asset in the coming decade. According to Kris Manery from Compuware, mainframes are complex to manage. Effective management requires experience and familiarity with mainframe systems, which Manery said can take up to two years for new developers to attain.

Skill Shortage Presents an Opportunity

The mainframe skills shortage could be viewed as an opportunity for developers and other IT specialists seeking to work in the field. Mainframe skills are required in a spectrum of organizational areas, including operations, database administration, help desk, security and more.

As Manery highlighted, it can take a matter of years for newer IT specialists to gain the necessary mainframe expertise. The majority of CIOs surveyed in the study confirmed that mainframes will function as key business assets in the decade to come. As such, mainframe skills will probably continue to be highly desirable and sought after in the job market.