Opportunities to Support Mainframes, Yes, Mainframes – Part II

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.

–Dino Londis

Comments

18 Responses to “Opportunities to Support Mainframes, Yes, Mainframes – Part II”

October 04, 2010 at 10:42 am, zman said:

re: IBM training younger workers while not hiring older

Isn’t age discrimination illegal in the U.S.?

Reply

October 04, 2010 at 10:42 am, zman said:

re: IBM training younger workers while not hiring older

Isn’t age discrimination illegal in the U.S.?

Reply

October 07, 2010 at 12:11 am, Jeff in Seattle said:

I started work at large companies w/mainframes; then went to med-size co. that had a mix of platforms (as opposed to small ones with only servers). This transitioned me from mainframe to other environs. However, large government agencies & contractors still use mainframes; as they are more reliable & cost effective. The mainframe model is coming back. Web giants are offering online apps pushing towards centralized services (storage, apps) rather than users downloading to their PCs. This in a mainframe model: rather than thousands of unique platforms, there is just one (with less chance of hardware, piracy & licensing issues). Don’t sell yourself short. I have my mainframe apps noted under Legacy skills (for hits). Skills like CA7, RACF, TMS do correlate over to current scheduling, security, & databases. Don¿t get hung up on versioning & specific apps; it is only a matter of syntax ¿ but the logic underneath is the same. Promote the bigger picture at what you know & understand

Reply

October 07, 2010 at 12:11 am, Jeff in Seattle said:

I started work at large companies w/mainframes; then went to med-size co. that had a mix of platforms (as opposed to small ones with only servers). This transitioned me from mainframe to other environs. However, large government agencies & contractors still use mainframes; as they are more reliable & cost effective. The mainframe model is coming back. Web giants are offering online apps pushing towards centralized services (storage, apps) rather than users downloading to their PCs. This in a mainframe model: rather than thousands of unique platforms, there is just one (with less chance of hardware, piracy & licensing issues). Don’t sell yourself short. I have my mainframe apps noted under Legacy skills (for hits). Skills like CA7, RACF, TMS do correlate over to current scheduling, security, & databases. Don¿t get hung up on versioning & specific apps; it is only a matter of syntax ¿ but the logic underneath is the same. Promote the bigger picture at what you know & understand

Reply

October 07, 2010 at 4:07 am, Fred Bosick said:

I’m a contractor at a large Midwest manufacturer that is still offshoring mainframe schedulers and analysts as fast as it can. I’m doing Windows and Unix work but I’m in the same room as the mainframers. The company even laments that its remaining people are getting old! Well, if you don’t hire new people and make it clear to those already there that your time is limited, what can you expect?

I’d like to know what brand crack you’re smoking!

Reply

October 07, 2010 at 4:07 am, Fred Bosick said:

I’m a contractor at a large Midwest manufacturer that is still offshoring mainframe schedulers and analysts as fast as it can. I’m doing Windows and Unix work but I’m in the same room as the mainframers. The company even laments that its remaining people are getting old! Well, if you don’t hire new people and make it clear to those already there that your time is limited, what can you expect?

I’d like to know what brand crack you’re smoking!

Reply

October 07, 2010 at 7:52 am, SeriousBlack said:

So… Correct me if I’m wrong, but what I take away from this is that if you’re an older worker who is unemployed, you’re screwed. Right?

Reply

October 07, 2010 at 7:52 am, SeriousBlack said:

So… Correct me if I’m wrong, but what I take away from this is that if you’re an older worker who is unemployed, you’re screwed. Right?

Reply

October 07, 2010 at 8:41 am, Benshaton said:

Except for my first job in LA for 3 years, I’ve been in the San Diego area since the 60’s, like my other family members. This area has over 3 million people. After working on mainframes and numerous peripheral devices since the 70’s, and continuously since 1984, I got laid off from my former employer during the 2005 3rd quarter layoff when the economy was “good” at 51.

I found out how little demand there is for someone with my background. There was a huge surplus of qualified computer operators, and other mainframe support, and interviews were few and far between. Fortunately just before my 18 month COBRA benefits were about to expire, I was hired outside of IT where I’m still employed. The pay isn’t that great, but better than most of the new jobs that would use the decades worth of skills I had.

My advice to young people is to stay out of this industry unless you relish instability, rotating or off shifts, and definitely avoid mainframes which is likely to be a dead end career unless you’re a complete nomad and can have enough money you can retire before the industry spits you out and your age is a liability.

Reply

October 07, 2010 at 8:41 am, Benshaton said:

Except for my first job in LA for 3 years, I’ve been in the San Diego area since the 60’s, like my other family members. This area has over 3 million people. After working on mainframes and numerous peripheral devices since the 70’s, and continuously since 1984, I got laid off from my former employer during the 2005 3rd quarter layoff when the economy was “good” at 51.

I found out how little demand there is for someone with my background. There was a huge surplus of qualified computer operators, and other mainframe support, and interviews were few and far between. Fortunately just before my 18 month COBRA benefits were about to expire, I was hired outside of IT where I’m still employed. The pay isn’t that great, but better than most of the new jobs that would use the decades worth of skills I had.

My advice to young people is to stay out of this industry unless you relish instability, rotating or off shifts, and definitely avoid mainframes which is likely to be a dead end career unless you’re a complete nomad and can have enough money you can retire before the industry spits you out and your age is a liability.

Reply

October 07, 2010 at 8:45 am, David said:

A lot of the original mainframe workers have reached retirement age unless you started right out of high school like myself, There is a need for a new workforce that can fill these slots since not too many young choose these classes. Some schools have scaled their curriculum way back in these areas

Reply

October 07, 2010 at 8:45 am, David said:

A lot of the original mainframe workers have reached retirement age unless you started right out of high school like myself, There is a need for a new workforce that can fill these slots since not too many young choose these classes. Some schools have scaled their curriculum way back in these areas

Reply

October 07, 2010 at 9:47 am, Loretta said:

Are there opportunities for mainframers with assembler skills if willing to travel or re-locate? I am just preparing for likely outsourcing.

Reply

October 07, 2010 at 9:47 am, Loretta said:

Are there opportunities for mainframers with assembler skills if willing to travel or re-locate? I am just preparing for likely outsourcing.

Reply

October 07, 2010 at 11:52 am, Jeff said:

I started out in Mainframes, but went from large companies to medium size companies that had a mix of mainframes, mini-mainframes and server farms (as opposed to small companies that just have servers). This is an excellent place to be because it transitioned me from mainframe to other technologies and so I had all types of skills under my belt. But don’t write off mainframes just yet. For those who only have mainframe skills, many large government agencies and government contractors use Mainframes…period. They are stronger, more reliable, stable, with uptimes of nearly 100% (and actual cost compared to the ever-changing server hardware and software arena – it’s a better deal).

As for the mainframe model itself…it is coming full circle. More and more web giants are offering online applications with a push in that direction to use their centralized services of storage, application use, etc. rather than having users download to their machines locally. This in essence is a mainframe model. There is simply less to go wrong. Rather than thousands of unique environments that software must run on, there is just one which users access. Software companies like this better too…less chance of piracy and licensing issues.

Don’t sell yourself or your skills and experience short. I have my mainframe applications noted in a separate area (for hits) noted as Legacy Skills. And mainframe skills like CA7, RACF, TMS, etc. do correlate over to modern-day scheduling, security, and databases. Sometimes people get hung up about versioning and specific applications. The difference between many systems is only a matter of syntax ¿ but the logic underneath is basically the same. Promote the bigger picture at what you know and understand.

Jeff, Seattle WA

Reply

October 07, 2010 at 11:52 am, Jeff said:

I started out in Mainframes, but went from large companies to medium size companies that had a mix of mainframes, mini-mainframes and server farms (as opposed to small companies that just have servers). This is an excellent place to be because it transitioned me from mainframe to other technologies and so I had all types of skills under my belt. But don’t write off mainframes just yet. For those who only have mainframe skills, many large government agencies and government contractors use Mainframes…period. They are stronger, more reliable, stable, with uptimes of nearly 100% (and actual cost compared to the ever-changing server hardware and software arena – it’s a better deal).

As for the mainframe model itself…it is coming full circle. More and more web giants are offering online applications with a push in that direction to use their centralized services of storage, application use, etc. rather than having users download to their machines locally. This in essence is a mainframe model. There is simply less to go wrong. Rather than thousands of unique environments that software must run on, there is just one which users access. Software companies like this better too…less chance of piracy and licensing issues.

Don’t sell yourself or your skills and experience short. I have my mainframe applications noted in a separate area (for hits) noted as Legacy Skills. And mainframe skills like CA7, RACF, TMS, etc. do correlate over to modern-day scheduling, security, and databases. Sometimes people get hung up about versioning and specific applications. The difference between many systems is only a matter of syntax ¿ but the logic underneath is basically the same. Promote the bigger picture at what you know and understand.

Jeff, Seattle WA

Reply

October 13, 2010 at 12:59 am, Leo said:

Many companies send legacy mainframe assignments offshore to reduce costs. Any existing system onshore just doesn’t do much hiring as there is nothing new to work on mostly. I would say that long-time mainframers can always seek other work not requiring technical knowledge which requires years to develop it. There are business and data analysis jobs more than IBM mainframe ones.

Reply

October 13, 2010 at 12:59 am, Leo said:

Many companies send legacy mainframe assignments offshore to reduce costs. Any existing system onshore just doesn’t do much hiring as there is nothing new to work on mostly. I would say that long-time mainframers can always seek other work not requiring technical knowledge which requires years to develop it. There are business and data analysis jobs more than IBM mainframe ones.

Reply

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