New mainframe apprenticeship looks to fill skills gap

Some 18 students will get hands-on experience running a mainframe system with a new programme developed with help from the IT industry.

A new advanced IT apprenticeship programme has been created to help teach mainframe skills and plug a looming skills gap as the systems return to popularity.

The two-year programme, which is to be offered at Leeds College of Technology, was created with help from Strategic Systems Solutions, Logicalis, Software AG and IBM.

The programme has already been endorsed by industry and education leaders, including the British Computer Society, e-Skills UK and the Learning Skills Council. While it focuses on mainframe management, it includes courses in other core IT areas, as well as business studies.

Martin Boakes, System z practice manager at Logicalis, told IT PRO that the mainframe apprenticeship was the first in the UK, if not the world. He added it was necessary because of the resurgence in the use of mainframes; he noted IBM has seen a 33 per cent jump in sales. "They realised there was a gap in the marketplace, so there would be a huge demand in mainframe skills."

Logicalis will be providing the 18 students remote access to its IBM z Series mainframe at no charge to the school. "We're allowing them to use our mainframe so they have a real world mainframe to train on," Boakes said. "Hands on experience in the mainframe world is absolutely invaluable experience speaks quite highly."

In addition to the course work, students will also have 16 months of work experience with a financial institution. "It will give college leavers work with the biggest clients in the UK," Boakes claimed.

On top of that, students have been given free tickets and accommodations to the Guide Share Europe (GSE) conference. "The mainframe community have accepted this course and rallied around it," said Boakes.

For the first run, the course will only be offered at Leeds. But if it's successful, the organisers will look to take it to other colleges, Boakes said.

More information about the course is available here.

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