How to solve a problem like the IT skills crisis



The recent report on falling applications in computer science degrees at UK universities has once again highlighted the human resource struggle that the IT industry is facing across the globe. While the decline was roughly in line with the overall fall in applications to higher education in the UK, for an IT industry already suffering from a skills crisis this news is far from welcome.

Skilled programmers and developers are growing in importance to businesses as mobile, big data, cloud and BYOD continue to impact the modern enterprise. Not to mention the vast numbers of developers already required in maintaining the existing systems on businesses’ mainframes.

As developers of the baby- boomer generation begin to retire, taking with them their vital programming skills and knowledge of existing systems, there is going to be a huge void of programming knowledge amongst many younger developers who are not learning the skills needed or are too few in numbers. This “gap” in skills required is going to have a considerable impact on businesses’ ability to continue to react to rapidly changing technological demands.

A recent survey by Vanson Bourne found that 71% of CIOs are concerned that the looming mainframe skills shortage will hurt their business. To address this fear, encouraging developers from a young age has to be high on the educational agenda, introducing more industry relevant IT GCSEs and further educational courses. Furthermore, it is going to be key for these courses to not only focus on teaching new programming languages, but also retain a significant emphasis on traditional but highly important languages such as COBOL and PL/I.

Mainframe programming languages remain critical to all aspects of day to day life and are vital to enable businesses to continue to function and adapt to market demands. COBOL for example, runs over 70% of the world’s business with over 200 times more transactions processed daily by COBOL business applications than there are Google searches made.

It is therefore important that businesses continue to work with Governments and universities to educate and support each other to produce courses that engage and inspire younger people, providing them with the skills and programming languages that they will require to operate in the modern world.

State of the art development technology from Micro Focus, including both the Visual COBOL (non-mainframe) and Enterprise Developer (mainframe) products enable application development staff using COBOL, Java, .NET or other language environments to work together, share the same desktop, and cross-pollinate skills. Helping the programmer community remove the barriers to understanding and collaboration will also help organizations nurture a wider skills pool for all their IT needs and build a more efficient development organization.

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