IBM Looks To Grow New Power College Program From The Ground Up
May 1, 2023 Alex Woodie
The “DANGER” sign is flashing red when it comes to IBM i skills. There simply aren’t enough people with IBM i skills to fill the market need, and the situation seems to be getting worse year by year. The good news is that IBM is aware of the problem and has launched a new program that executives hope will lead to more students learning IBM i skills and getting good jobs in the industry.
The worker shortage is a nationwide problem and is impacting multiple industries. From waiters and truck drivers to teachers and programmers, there just aren’t enough workers to fill available jobs. In 2022, more than 50 million workers quit their jobs amid the “Great Reshuffle,” according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, as people look for better pay and worker flexibility.
Despite recent layoffs at the tech giants, the job market in the IT business is still tight. A recent survey by Hays Technology found that 94 percent of UK employers looking for IT workers are encountering a skills shortage. In the long term, employers will be short 85 million tech workers by 2030, according to an IMF report.
The dynamics in the IBM i job market are a little bit different. An aging workforce consisting primarily of baby boomers, coupled with the lack of younger workers to replace them, is the main problem. There are many reports of companies not being able to fill positions as IBM i programmers, administrators, and analysts leave due to retirement or death.
A lack of formal educational programs at the university or community college level is often fingered as one of the main reasons for the lack of skilled workers in the IBM i community. Employers should also share some of the blame, as many IBM i shops have not invested enough time and money in training the next generation of IBM i talent.
Executives at IBM are very aware of the skills situation, and they’re doing something about it. Last year, the company launched the new Power Skills Academy (PSA) to replace the old Power Systems Academic Initiative. IBM has learned from its past experience and is incorporating those lessons into the new PSA, said Gina King, IBM’s director of ecosystem alliances.
“The old Power Systems Academic Initiative program was largely run by a vendor for a number of years,” King told IT Jungle at COMMON’s POWERUp 2023 conference in Denver, Colorado, last week. “We didn’t have a lot of insight, quite frankly, into the program and we needed that. We needed to understand how effective it was being. We needed to have personal relationships with the universities. And we needed to make it better.”
So IBM brought that program inhouse, and relaunched it as the PSA. While PSA has similar mission as the old Power Systems Academic Initiative, IBM plans to do much more with it, including working with a much larger number of universities, King said.
“We want to actively recruit more universities and colleges,” she said. “And we want to be strategic about it.”
Most of the universities and community colleges that teach IBM i and RPG skills are located in the Midwest. Gateway Technical College in Kenosha, Wisconsin, is perhaps the best known, but there are a handful of others, such as Moraine Valley Community College near Chicago, Illinois; Seneca College near Toronto, Ontario; and Western Technical College in La Crosse, Wisconsin.
The goal of the PSA is to expand IBM i (and AIX and Linux on Power) education to additional colleges. IBM has a ready-made curriculum for each of these Power platforms, and is ready to provide slices of Power servers in the cloud for colleges to use for education and training. The big question facing King and her team is where to focus their efforts.
“We want to understand where are the majority of the clients, or where are the majority of the ISVs, and target community colleges and universities that are near those companies,” she said. “We want to get a lot more proactive.”
IBM won’t be doing all the work itself. King envisions an industry-wide grassroots effort taking place to bolster IBM i education and training across the country, and indeed the world.
“We have to put the energy behind it,” she said. “Right now, we have it kind of ramped up and running. I have a vision of where and how I want to take it to the next level. Then I need to figure out how do we do that part with the army we have. We’re adding more people to it.”
King wants to pair her IBM team with pockets of IBM i enthusiasm, including groups, organizations, and individuals, to jumpstart a nationwide movement around IBM i training and education, with an eye on putting young IBM i professionals into jobs.
“What I would like to see is two things come together,” she said. “One is how do those groups work together and complement each other, because in our case, we have students coming out of college that are looking for jobs and also need to be connected to the broader community. They need some kind of continuing education. So I’d like to see how we can bring together all these different factions that are having the same mission, and recruit more students.”
The second part of it is getting those students connected with employers, she said.
“One of the things we wanted to build out is skills match, where we bring the students together with the clients,” King said. “I’ve already talked to a number of clients here where they’re looking for IBM skills. We’ve asked them, can we reach out to find out if your company would participate in something like this? Is this the right curriculum? Is this the right skills that you need?”
IBM can’t solve the IBM i skills shortage by itself. Getting the entire IBM i boat rowing in the same direction will be a great start to actually achieving the long-term goal, which is having a sustainable pool of IBM i talent to ensure the continued success of the platform.
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As a start give IBMi licenses and power systems to big universities for free or super discounted. And training programs.The unix way.
They can experiment on it directly. the i is even a good system to study on a pure OS / kernel class, it is a refreshing view in contrast with the mainstream.
Who knows, when you have many people plus time plus free stuff, they maybe can even build on it the systems that runs the universities themselves (with the long term protection of the i TIMI model).
When people then will enter the workforce, there is a probability that they will sponsor the technology in the businesses in contrast of being totally ignorant and suspicious to it or totally change it.
Secondly, publish excellent training material online, from the IBM site, basic use of the system plus RPG etc. etc.
Third, improve the 5250 protocol 😉
Then, you win. 😉 I know, it is a view not compatible with short term common management roles and objective, but without a long term spirit, as400 would not even have been born.
PSA is an excellent and much needed IBM i initiative, and a wonderful opportunity for IBM to market and enhance IBM i far beyond the current IBM capability.
ema, once again, has great and very important ideas about PSA, including upgrading of the IBM 5250 protocol, so IBM should really hire ema to actually make her ideas actually happen.
PSA should have superior capability to the excellent PUB400.com capability, including the capability for university students to utilize the needed IBM business Partner software they will encounter when they actually apply for and get IBM programming jobs. PUB400.com and the many very useful IBM i current YouTube videos, like Yusy4code show just how inexpensive and extremely powerful it is to provide a worldwide capability for IBM to finally actually market and educate and support the IBM i, including new application and tool offerings at extremely low or no cost.
PSA should also have a worldwide mentoring and intern and job posting capability to provide an immediate reason to university students to use PSA and IBM i.