The University of Canberra is reviving its mainframe degree with a cohort of at least 25 students expected to start the Bachelor of Information and Mainframe Technology course in December.
The university partnered with tertiary education provider Column 72 to develop a three year Mainframe Trainee Program, which includes the degree and paid traineeships at companies that use IBM Z mainframe machines.
The course involves face-to-face and online learning and placements working on some of the 63 mainframes (insourced and outsourced) in use in Australia.
It is planned that students will learn about traditional and emerging languages and technologies with access to the full suite of IBM’s System Z software.
“The University of Canberra is pleased to be partnering with Column 72 to develop this ground-breaking program to ensure IT graduates are equipped to handle challenges of the future,” said acting vice-chancellor Professor Nick Klomp.
“The proposed program is both practical and academically sound to meet industry needs and ensure that graduates will be employable once qualified,” he added.
The course – which is still to get final approval by the university's academic board – is a revival of a similar one that ran between 2001 and 2011. It came to an end as a result of the global financial crisis, but not before graduating 262 students.
“I look forward to watching the trainees learn at the University and progress with their sponsoring employers during this dynamic and rapidly evolving time in the IBM Z space,” said Column 72 director Dr Murray Woods.
Its rebirth is a response in part to a growing crisis resulting from an ageing workforce of those skilled in mainframe technologies. According to BMC, nearly half (47 per cent) of the mainframe workforce is aged over 50. Only seven per cent are under 30.
‘Staffing and skills shortage’ was reported as the top challenge (second only to software costs) of survey respondents.
Although the ‘mainframers’ might be moving on to retirement, the machines are not going anywhere.
In the past 12 months alone the Department of Human Services, Australian Taxation Office, Queensland Government, and South Australian Government have all signed, sought or extended major mainframe deals. Westpac, the Reserve Bank of Australia, Harvey Nash, Suncorp, a number of government agencies and Bankwest have all sought people with mainframe experience in recent months.
According to IBM, the dominant player in the market, its mainframes run 68 per cent of the world’s production workloads, handle 87 per cent of all credit card transactions – meaning “just about everyone has used a mainframe computer at one point or another,” the company says – and are used by 44 of the top 50 banks and 18 of the top 25 retailers.
Those interested in taking the course have until August to apply via Column 72 or with the university. Applicants must have a Diploma of IT from TAFE or be in the first year of an IT degree at an Australian university.