Career Watch: Making Cobol cool again

Q&A: Darin Edmunds

The leader of the Action program at Micro Focus explains what it's doing to bring young people into the Cobol fold.

What is the Academic Connections, or Action, program? The Action program was conceived to introduce and maintain Cobol in IT academic programs, in response to fears that such programming and other IT skills could be lost because of dwindling interest in Cobol as newer and more glitzy technologies arrive on the scene. The idea is to forestall a potentially disastrous resource vacuum.

It would be disastrous because Cobol remains extremely important. In a single year, Cobol applications are involved in transporting up to 72,000 shipping containers, caring for 60 million patients, processing 80% of point-of-sale transactions and connecting 500 million mobile phone users.

The IT industry is continually reinventing itself with newer technologies, which is great for the furthering of technology but does very little for supporting what works today. We are working with industry, government and academic institutes through the Action program to ensure that the technology that supports global markets has a renewable pool of well-educated, Cobol-capable resources. Through the Action program, noncommercial academic institutes can apply for access to our software for use on the campus to support their education programs. The program also enables third-party partners to support subscribed academic institutes and provide employment opportunities.

The IT industry of today requires well-rounded IT professionals. Beyond pure programming skills, there is a demand for quality awareness and the best practices that ensure success. To meet these needs, the Action program will evolve to include more support while staying true to the original ethos of keeping Cobol current.

How do you gauge the program's success? Currently, by the number of academic institutes signed up, which has recently exceeded 100 globally.

How do you convince today's students that Cobol is worthwhile? Based on the increased number of Action applications, we seem to be doing that. But we must not become complacent. Offshoring and outsourcing are still key strategies for businesses, and we see significant uptake in those countries associated with delivering offshore services. We have significant partnerships putting Cobol in the "candy shop," so to speak, to keep its youth appeal -- programs such as Visual Cobol, Cobol on Unix and other things geared toward promoting the technology for building future solutions. We are increasing awareness of Cobol as a modern technology, and, to show how Cobol can be associated with career growth, we are coupling that awareness with information such as the part that Cobol plays in today's economy.

-- Jamie Eckle

Those With Jobs Have Plenty to Do

CIOs were asked, "How would you describe the staffing level of your IT department in relation to current workloads?" Here are their responses:

* At the appropriate staffing level: 53%

* Somewhat understaffed: 33%

* Very understaffed: 10%

* Somewhat overstaffed: 3%

* Don't know/no answer: 1%

Source: Robert Half Technology telephone interviews with more than 1,400 CIOs at U.S. companies with 100 or more employees, November 2009

The Dirt on Certs

Some certifications are worth more than others, and Dice Learning has compiled a list of the top 10 for technology professionals. After surveying 17,000 people who work in IT, Dice Learning determined that the following certs have most helped technology professionals command higher salaries at all experience levels.

* PMP: The Project Management Institute's Project Management Professional certification

* MCSE: Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer

* A+: A vendor-neutral certification from CompTIA for tech-support technicians

* CCNA: Cisco Certified Network Associate

* MCP: Microsoft Certified Professional

* Network+: A CompTIA cert for networking

* CISSP: The Certified Information Systems Security Professional certification, from (ISC)2

* MCSA: Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator

* ITIL: The three-tier IT Infrastructure Library certification, which demonstrates the expertise of professionals in tech management

* Security+: A CompTIA cert for IT security specialists

Career Watch is compiled by Jamie Eckle.

Read more about careers in Computerworld's Careers Knowledge Center.

This story, "Career Watch: Making Cobol cool again" was originally published by Computerworld.

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