We received a lot of feedback from our Opportunities to Support Mainframes, Yes Mainframes post. Many Dice readers found fault with the story saying there was little or no mainframe work since it is being outsourced. Here was one typical response, posted by Scott:
“I’ve been working on IBM z/OS and VM mainframes since 1984. I lost my job at one of only two mainframe companies (sort of… emulated mainframe) in the Naples, FL area back in April of 2009 and have not been able to find even Windows work in this area; let alone mainframe work. I can walk in and make immediate impact, but I guess it will take relocation, which I can’t really afford without a pretty serious amount of assistance. Where are these jobs? I am ready and willing.”
I don’t pretend to see jobs where there are none and I’m under no illusion that the IT industry – though faring better – is struggling, but there may be more factors at play than just outsourcing. There are fewer openings than seekers right now because the older workers are holding on to their jobs longer. Jeffrey Shoup of Axiom says, “The employees desiring to retire now are biding their time until the economy recovers.” When it does recover, say 2013, the retirement ready mainframers will leave en masse. And that’s what IBM is preparing for.
So both sides may be right. Scott needs a job now and IBM is looking long term. The fact that fewer companies are hiring now makes IBM’s long term outlook bleak, since fewer new people will fill these old IBM positions. If the downturn lasts for several more years, the attrition from the retiring mainframe workers will spike and the jobs will be more plentiful.
Although it doesn’t comfort the skilled mainframer looking for a job, it does go a long way to explain why IBM is training young workers while not hiring older ones. The day will come when those jobs are available for newbies and the skilled. The question is, how soon?
And the fact is, there really are mainframe jobs for Americans in their fifties. We may just have to work harder to get them. Here’s what William commented regarding the Mainframe post:
The mainframe is as fresh, new, vibrant and technologically leading edge as it ever was with the new z/Enterprise. It trumps ANYTHING in the distributed market space for energy efficiency, footprint, availability, performance and virtualization. No, I don’t work for IBM. Mainframe jobs aren’t abundant, but the work is there if you look for it. Few people realize that UNIX runs as a subsystem of z/OS, and Linux runs both natively and as a virtual operating system on System z. You get everything on one platform. Why go elsewhere? Just because you are a mainframer does NOT preclude developing distributed workstation skills and certification. Why leave System z? Because people STAY in those jobs for years: One takes years to become proficient, mature and technically outstanding with both breadth and depth of knowledge on so many products, subsystems and platforms. The skills one develops on System z are easily ported elsewhere. NOTHING in the marketplace matches System z for the best of the best in technology, sophistication and cutting edge computing horsepower. It RUNS the Fortune 1,000, the US Government and z/TPF another System z operating system – runs the airlines.