Open Mainframe Project Targets Resources at Spike in Demand for COBOL Programmers

The Open Mainframe Project, an open source initiative that enables collaboration across the mainframe community to develop shared tool sets and resources, has organized its membership, including Broadcom, IBM, Phoenix Software, Rocket Software, SUSE, Vicom Infinity, and Zoss Team, to address a growing COBOL skills gap spotlighted by public sector officials.

The new efforts were announced in an Open Mainframe blog post:

"More than 10 million people in the United States have filed for unemployment amid the COVID-19 global pandemic and financial crisis. As these numbers continue to grow, a big technology skills gap is starting to emerge as well. For example, earlier this week, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy put out a call for volunteers who have COBOL skills because—like most states—New Jersey depends on mainframes to control, manage, and secure citizens’ data. Many states are following with the same call for volunteers. This pandemic underscores the critical nature for public sector mainframe applications to be agile and easily modified to meet fast-changing requirements."

According to the post, there are estimates that 220 billion lines of COBOL are still in use today, and this code is reliable, proven, and the foundation of most mission-critical banking and financial services applications at the world’s biggest financial services organizations which is why it has remained core to these systems.

However, the challenge cities and states are facing now is changing their COBOL code rapidly enough to respond to the increased unemployment payment eligibility in a very short timeframe.

Open Mainframe Project has organized efforts around three new resources in response to this urgent need from our public sector officials, according to the blog post. These include the following:

  1. Calling all COBOL Programmers Foruman Open Mainframe Project forum where developers and programmers who would like to volunteer or are available for hire can post their profiles. Whether they are actively looking for employment, retired skilled veterans, students who have successfully completed COBOL courses, or professionals wanting to volunteer, they can specify their level of expertise and availability to assist.  Employers can then connect with these resources as needed. The forum can be found here:
  2. COBOL Technical Forum—a new forum specific to COBOL technical questions which will be monitored by experienced COBOL programmers. This will allow all levels of programmers to quickly learn new techniques and draw from a broad range of experience and expertise to address common questions and challenges arising during this unprecedented time. The technical questions can be asked in this forum:
  3. Open Source COBOL TrainingOpen Source COBOL Training—the Open Mainframe Project Technical Advisory Council has approved hosting a new open source project that will lead collaboration for training materials on COBOL. The courseware was contributed by IBM based on its work with clients and institutes of higher education. These materials will be provided under an open source license and available in the coming days on the Open Mainframe Project GitHub organization.