Gretchen Whitmer at Compuware | Detroit
September 29, 2017 Workforce

Gubernatorial Candidate Gretchen Whitmer Learns How to Grow Michigan Mainframe Jobs

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Americans might disagree on how to reduce unemployment, but there’s at least a prevailing desire to find a way—and to teach the skills necessary for jobs that are available. For Michigan native and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gretchen Whitmer, enabling citizens through specialized education to qualify for jobs requiring vocational skills is a central concern:

“It’s estimated that Michigan needs to fill 15,000 jobs in skilled trades, that don’t require a college degree, every year until 2024. And we’re coming up short on the electricians, web developers, technicians, health care workers, carpenters, and other workers we need to fill those jobs.”

That’s according to Whitmer’s site, GretchenWhitmer.com, where you can learn more about what she plans to do.

Note her much-appreciated “web developers” callout (bolding mine). This is great to see, but it’s also important to elaborate that the need for developers encompasses more than programming jobs with Java, contrary to what most assume. In particular, mainframe development is experiencing a massive attrition of expert programmers who are taking decades of knowledge and technical proficiency with them—companies need COBOL developers, too.

This is a moment of opportunity—both for those companies and government agencies running mission-critical applications and data on the mainframe as well as for individuals who are willing to learn how to maintain and advance those assets—to rebuild a workforce that, frankly, the world needs. After all, mainframes run the world.

Gretchen Whitmer | Compuware | Mainframe

Compuware’s Keith Sisson explains the IBM z13 mainframe to Gretchen Whitmer

The Mainframe’s Opportune Moment

With 90 percent of CIOs agreeing the mainframe will remain strategic for a decade and beyond, major international corporations and government agencies are in dire need of COBOL programmers. And with so many experts retiring, the mainframe industry is ripe with opportunities for young people or programming professionals who are ready to excel.

During a visit to Compuware, Whitmer learned companies running mission-critical applications and data on the mainframe can empower next-generation developers and other mainframe-inexperienced programmers to be proficient on the platform and build sustainable, well-paying careers—just as Compuware has empowered them in recent years and will continue to.

We had the opportunity to not only tell Whitmer the story of our transformation from a waterfall-based monolith in decline to an Agile/DevOps, mainframe-centric software company, but also show her how we operate like a modern startup launching new products and feature functions every 90 days. During a quick tour of Compuware, Whitmer saw where Agile teams of developers, including those early in their careers and recent graduates, collaborate and create meaningful mainframe software for customers around the world. She also witnessed the modern technology of the mainframe in Compuware’s x86-less datacenter.

Empowering Programmers

Whitmer wants to “make apprenticeships and training for these in-demand fields available and affordable” and, alongside bringing classes like woodworking and metal shop back to schools, make “computer programming languages available, and [encourage] young people to explore these pathways to a good living doing something they enjoy.”

Similarly, Compuware is empowering programmers to succeed by helping them gain new skills for the mainframe. For the last three years, we’ve focused on making the mainframe understandable for younger developers who are taking the places of experts in the private and public sectors.

These talented individuals are generally familiar with distributed languages like Java and intuitive Eclipse-based tools that make it easy for creative ideas to manifest as “tangible” products. But mainframe development too often requires them to use outdated, waterfall-based “green screen” tools that make it difficult to work with unfamiliar “legacy” languages and the large, complex, poorly documented programs mainframes often run. This either deters them from forging a career in mainframe development, or causes many to leave once they’re in.

Here’s the alternative: with modern tools like Compuware Topaz—a comprehensive suite of Eclipse-based mainframe development and testing tools—companies can empower developers, regardless of experience, to understand and work on any program, no matter how old or complex. When companies provide mainframe developers with modern tools that work how software should in 2017, they stick around—and they help drive the innovation companies are starving for.

Gretchen Whitmer | Compuware CEO O'Malley

Compuware CEO Chris O’Malley with Gretchen Whitmer

Mainframe Job Growth

Compuware is dedicated to job growth in Detroit and Michigan. We run our software development out of Detroit only—no outsourcing. For another, we’re focused on growing our mainframe development workforce and maintaining the critical skills and knowledge required to fill the roles of our retiring experts. That means enabling next-generation developers with the right culture, processes and tools and helping them learn through mentorship.

The mainframe industry is also becoming more of a blended industry comprising Computer Science graduates, autodidacts and certified professionals who learn through programs such as IBM Skills Gateway Badges and Master the Mainframe.

As Whitmer saw when she visited Compuware, companies and government agencies, both within and outside of Michigan, can help programmers leverage new learning opportunities and empower them to succeed with modern tools like those from Compuware. This will ensure their mainframes continue to succeed as the systems of record enabling progress—and ensure an entire industry supporting the global economy continues to thrive.

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Mike Siemasz

Technology Writer at Compuware
Mike Siemasz is Compuware's Content Strategist and Technology Writer, reporting on culture, processes and tools in relation to DevOps and the mainframe.
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