Modern RPG Tops List of Essential Skills
August 5, 2013 Dan Burger
For the past six weeks, IT Jungle has encouraged readers to take a brief survey that would measure the boundaries and intensity of the IBM i skills shortage. Jim Buck, the tenacious outrider for IBM i education, is monitoring the survey responses and last week he emailed me to report the number of IBM midrange shops participating in the survey now totals 111. He also provided some indicators of areas of widespread concern.
At the top of the most wanted list was advanced RPG skills. You might think that with so many RPG programmers in the IBM i community, and particularly with many years of experience, that these skills would not be difficult to find. Companies in search of individuals possessing advanced RPG skills would argue otherwise: 70 percent of the companies taking this survey chose this category as having the greatest impact. That’s a strong statement and is clearly of much greater concern than other IBM i skills. It supports the idea that RPG programming skills are in demand and the supply is limited.
Modern RPG skills are rare for a number of reasons: the complacency of programmers, of IBM i shops, and of IBM are all key factors. There is little debate that an RPG skills upgrade is needed for companies with investments in the platform and personnel. RPG programmers will fight to the death to defend the language, but that doesn’t correlate to staying current with the ongoing enhancements. Technical schools and colleges that emphasize IBM i education and modern RPG are needed to address the demand. Progress is being made in that area, and this survey is part of the process of aligning schools and IBM i shops.
Control Language (CL) skills are also in short supply, according to this survey. More than two-thirds of the survey responders ranked this as a high priority. This statistic points to another area of traditional skill for IBM i advocates, but again one that is not particularly current. Like RPG, there are a relatively small number of programmers who have mastered CL at a level that matches current enhancements and capabilities.
After RPG and CL, skills such as Web programming and enterprise computing also showed up on the radar screen. And compared to Linux and C++, Java expertise stood out in importance.
The skills survey was designed so that only the above-mentioned categories were included and the respondents were asked to assign a value (on a scale of 1 through 10) to each skill based on the importance of the skill and difficulty in finding employees who possessed the skill.
Companies that participated in the survey are searching for talented entry-level workers with IT educations that include IBM i-related skills. By participating, the companies are demonstrating an interest in becoming involved with colleges that specialize in IBM i training.
Buck is working with IBM’s Academic Initiative program and with the administrators at Gateway Technical College and has applied for a Department of Labor grant that would further the development of a standardized IBM i curriculum that could be implemented at participating colleges and universities. In addition, with the help of the grant money, he plans to develop a “teach the teacher” program that would benefit schools where IBM i curriculum is in demand. Also in his sights is the building of advisory groups–made up of IBM i shops, independent software vendors, and IBM i business partners in the sales channel–at the schools.
To participate in the survey, follow this link.