COMMON’s Fountain of Youth
September 23, 2013 Dan Burger
More than a few people have asked me where are the young people in the IBM i community. It’s a good question, because you really don’t see a lot of them. That’s why it was somewhat surprising to learn that nine college students attended the COMMON Fall Conference and Expo about a week and a half ago in St. Louis, Missouri.
They were able to get indoctrinated because of an emerging program from the COMMON Education Foundation, which rounded up enough money to pay for travel, lodging, and registrations. The Foundation–which operates as a separate entity from COMMON, the user group–works to enhance midrange education in colleges and universities. In doing so, it has a close relationship with the IBM Power Systems Academic Initiative.
For this particular project, bringing college students to COMMON, the Academic Initiative chipped in $5,000. The Foundation also solicited the IBM i vendor community and picked up donations of $125 a piece from ProData Computer Services, Profound Logic, iTech Solutions, and CounsulTech Services, plus $600 from Velocity Technology Solutions.
Michelle August, executive director of the COMMON Education Foundation and department chair of information management systems at Moraine Valley Community College, is hopeful that more donations from the IBM i community will arrive before the COMMON Annual Meeting and Expo next spring and that more colleges will be interesting in sending students and instructors.
Pete Glass, program manager of the Power Systems Academic Initiative, told me it is his intention to give another $5,000 to the Foundation before the next COMMON conference takes place in Orlando, Florida, May 4 through 7, 2014.
“The relationship between COMMON and the Power Systems Academic Initiative is a good one,” Glass said. “We want to be as close to COMMON as we can.”
The IBM Academic Initiative goals are in line with the COMMON Education Foundation goals to encourage and promote the teaching of IBM technologies in college computer science and MSI courses and ensure a pipeline of talent to IBM customers. This has been an important issue for IBM i shops for several years as schools that once taught RPG programming and other platform-specific skills dwindled. Only a few years ago there were more than 400 colleges and universities teaching IBM midrange skills (a combination of IBM i and AIX) worldwide. That total is now 177. A year ago it was 135, so it is showing a bit of resurgence. The number of schools specifically teaching IBM i courses worldwide is 70 and 52 of those schools are in North America.
COMMON and the Academic Initiative are currently working on program to connect more subject matter experts from the IBM i community and from IBM corporate with colleges and universities that need both instructors and guest speakers for their classes in enterprise computing. Glass expects to be contacting schools in the next month with a list of experts who have volunteered for these assignments.