Retired mainframe pros lured back into workforce

By , Darren Pauli, Computerworld Australia |  IT Management, Careers, Hardware Systems

SYDNEY (07/10/2009) - Retired mainframe administrators are being offered lucrative deals and better work conditions by businesses unable to replace the experienced workers.

Businesses that have made redundancies across mainframe areas and cut-back on hires are struggling to replace engineers, according to industry experts.
Organisations needing to replace aging senior staff are also struggling to recruit young workers who many say are not attracted to the highly technical nature of mainframe administration.

Prycroft Six managing director Greg Price, a mainframe veteran of some 45 years, said the skills shortage was caused by businesses that cut mainframe administration staff to meet budget requirements.
A steady state business does not want to outlay massive capital to change, so they may outsource or get in a contractor for ad-hoc administration tasks, Price said.

Mainframes are expensive, ergo businesses want to go to cheaper platforms, but [those platforms] have a lot of packaged overheads. If you do a total cost of ownership, the mainframe comes out cheaper, but since the costs of a mainframe are immediately obvious, it is hard to get it past the bean-counters of an organisation, he said.

At the fundamental level, we are dealing with an imposed irrationality based upon our unfounded cultural imperative that nothing is as important as this quarter's results.

We don't care if we kill ourselves in four months time, as long as we have the money in three months, and it is this madness that is driving us to stupid decisions.

CA's mainframe business executive vice president Chris O'Malley said when people were made redundant they were likely to be mainframe workers because it had no immediate affect and the organisations didn't expect to keep mainframes around.

O'Malley said in 2000 there were more people in system programming than there are today despite the workloads having quadrupled which is quite an anomaly.

A mainframe veteran of 40 years, IT infrastructure specialist for enterprise systems management at EDS, Zeljko Crkvencic, said businesses that struggle to replace retired workers may end up offshoring or outsourcing mainframe administration.

Despite the economic downturn, mainframe jobs have increased by 15 per cent since November 2007, according to job search engine Simply Hired.

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