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Is the Cloud Killing Mainframe Jobs?

In the course of researching and writing my upcoming mainframe cloud story, I learned that there's a widespread belief that it's becoming more and more difficult to find workers with the skillset required to operate and maintain mainframe computers. That notion is substantiated in a 2010 survey sponsored by mainframe software maker CA Technologies, which claimed: "There's an emerging consensus that the IT industry as a whole simply isn't doing enough to promote mainframe database career opportunities to recent graduates. Just as importantly, a significant number of IT executives are looking to vendors to help them find the next generation of mainframe specialists."

So is there a crisis or not? It seems hard to believe that especially at a time when jobs are so valued -- and so scarce -- nobody would want to be trained for good jobs managing mainframes.

Bill Reeder, Linux and Cloud Computing Leader for System z at IBM, doesn't believe that mainframe skills are in short supply, and he gives two reasons why: First, if a company acquires an additional mainframe, it doesn't double its staff of mainframe experts and, in fact, it may not add to it at all.

Second, in recognition of the aging IT population, IBM worked with more than 600 universities around the world to create the IBM Academic Initiative, which it describes as "a global program that facilitates the collaboration between IBM and educators to teach students the information technology skills they need to be competitive and keep pace with changes in the workplace." There's no charge for this program.

According to the 2011 Computerworld Salary Survey, the average salary for a computer operator/lead computer operator in the Pacific region of the United States with less than 10 years of experience went up 10.2 percent from 2010 to $47,000, while the national average for these positions climbed 2.3 percent to $53,813.

Results of the 2011 Payscale.com salary survey in the United States reveal a different perspective. The survey found that the pay for jobs within the category of Computer Operator, Mainframe for workers with between one and four years' experience ran from $25,000 to $60,941. These same workers with 20 years or more of experience made between $34,622 and $62,820.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the poverty level for 2011 is $22,350.

It's clearly not a job that will make you rich, especially if you're just starting out, but in a small household with two wage earners, it should be enough to hold up one share of the rent and keep food in the kitchen. And if the CA Technologies survey is right, it shouldn't be that hard to find work.

Posted by Bruce Hoard on 10/03/2011 at 12:48 PM


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