IT industry-driven training aims at skills gap

June 17, 2013

From “Industry-Driven Training Aims at Skills Gap” — The skilled workforce is a big concern for all companies. In the IBM midrange community, you won’t find many people who believe it isn’t a problem. Potential entry-level employees with IBM i skills are scarce. And companies that are hiring tend to be particular about that. In most instances, organizations are not looking for one-dimensional individuals. Broad-based skills, including multiple languages and operating systems, are more the norm.

What’s being done to address this?

Some companies have found success when the IT and HR departments work together on a recruitment strategy that has close ties to colleges where IBM i skills are part of the computer science curriculum. They are on advisory boards that help determine the classroom subjects. It’s an effective strategy, but it’s not one in widespread use.

Replicating success is not difficult when you have a good template. That’s the thinking of Jim Buck, who is in the process of applying for a grant to do just that. Buck, who heads up one of the most successful IBM i educational tracks at the collegiate level for Gateway Technical College in Wisconsin, hopes the Department of Labor grant will allow Gateway to begin a program to train instructors at other colleges and universities. Among his priorities is helping other institutions set up advisory councils with IBM i shops.

At Gateway, Buck has an advisory council with 12 members representing IBM i shops. They help establish the curriculum and specific skills they view as important for the entry level jobs they hope to be filling now and in the years ahead. It’s the connection and collaboration between companies that need to replenish their workforces and the colleges that can best provide the skilled people that is critically (and I don’t use that word lightly) important.

Buck describes this as “industry-driven training” and he is emphasizing the role of IBM i shops in the preparation of training and the job placement support following the completion of training. The curriculum roadmap consists of three core classes: an introduction to programming, enterprise system concepts, and DB2 programming. The colleges and their advisory boards can select educational tracks to best fit business requirements and employment opportunities.

Gateway is relying on a consortium of community colleges across the U.S. (the 125-member National Coalition of Advanced Technology Centers), as well as schools that participate in the IBM Academic Initiative. The initial group of colleges that are expected to prove the program is viable includes: Muskegon Community College in Michigan, Central Piedmont Community College in North Carolina, the Community College of Baltimore County in Maryland, Metropolitan Community College in Nebraska, and Moraine Valley Community College in Illinois. Each of these schools will be developing partnerships with IBM i-based companies, including software vendors and IBM business partners.

The targeted student population includes college students as well as dislocated workers, the unemployed, veterans, and other adults. Those who complete the training will earn industry-recognized certifications, which will be spearheaded by COMMON.

There are a lot of companies in the IBM i community who could help themselves, help the IBM i community, and help their local communities by lending a hand to this. If your organization isn’t involved in an advisory council relationship with a tech school, the question needs to be asked, “Why not?” Is it because there is no plan for investment in IT personnel for the future? Is it because there’s no investment in IT infrastructure? For all the companies who say they can’t find people with the right skills, are there companies that believe in taking an active role to change that outcome?

“If this consortium of schools gets this grant–and they are asking for up to $25 million to build these centers of excellence–it will be the biggest step forward in teaching Power skills in the 17-year history of the Academic Initiative. This is an enormous step,” says Pete Glass, program manager of the Power Systems Academic Initiative. “But we need to have names to give the grant application strength.”

Companies that are interested in getting involved with this project can take the first step by completing a brief survey that, when compiled, will identify the severity of the skills gaps and rank their importance. Participation in the survey will result in follow up from the project coordinators who can help determine ways in which your company can benefit from this collaboration and how an effective skills pipeline can be hooked into your company.



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