How Do We Fix The Great IBM i Resource Shortage

How Do We Fix The Great IBM i Resource Shortage?

I’ve had the chance to get out and meet with people from the IBM i community lately at COMMON and the NHMUG meeting. After two long years of isolation, it was great to be out again and talk with people. Everyone was excited to get together, but there was another topic on everyone’s mind; how do we fix the great IBM i resource shortage and find more people to support IBM i?

It’s an interesting problem when you think about it. IBM i is the backbone of many industries, from financials and trucking to manufacturing and everything in between. IBM i runs the world, literally. Yet, for a platform so critical to industry and its success, there is very little education available for students to learn about this platform. There are a few opportunities for students to learn about IBM i, such as Gateway Technical College (They do a great job, and their students are successful in landing jobs in the IBM i world.), but they are few and far between.

Why is it that every student knows how to use a PC? But when they go to college, don’t learn about IBM i as an option? When I was attending classes, I could take AS/400 courses. Half of the class were adult learners who worked with the platform and wanted to learn more about it. I needed college credits at the time, and I had been an AS/400 administrator at my previous job and was working at a software company for AS/400 change management, so it seemed like a good idea.

I was a System Administrator for an AS/400 shop running JDE when I was twenty. I was tossed into the role when I was laid off from the same company as a Sales Administrator the week before. Two people in the IT department gave their notice on the same day. I received a call from my friend who was promoted to IT Manager, and she asked if I wanted to learn about the system.

That was it. I had an aptitude for computers my whole life. It started in the fifth grade when our Principal decided we all needed to learn about computers. He taught small groups of students at a time about the computer and how we could write Basic programs to make it do things. Before we could even touch the computer, he made us memorize where the keys were on the keyboard. A valuable skill indeed. I spent every free moment in his office on that computer. Every recess, every free period I could get. I was hooked.

Regarding technology, I was a fast learner, and I could help others solve their problems without bothering with IT. This is why I was offered the job. Not because I knew anything about IBM i.

The only formal training I had in AS/400 was I spent a week at RPG Training. I learned RPG III to be able to help debug JDE problems. I never wrote an actual program, but I could read the code, identify some problems and forward others to people more experienced. I did OS upgrades, PTF updates, and JDE upgrades. I made Twinax cables, ran them through the building, and managed all the PCs and printers. I set up new PCs and laptops, installing software from diskettes. I learned a lot in two and a half years.

The point is, I learned all of it on the job with the help of my Manager and our developer, who guided me and taught me what I needed to know to become good at my job. She saw my aptitude to learn technology and took me under her wing. They taught me what I needed to know, and I caught on quickly.

The business has seemed to have forgotten that they are obligated to help educate their workforce. Education on the job is a great way to get someone invested in the platform. If you are not willing to invest in your employees and improve their skills, how can you expect them to show up already full of experience? Where are they supposed to learn about IBM i?

There is abundant knowledge and educational opportunities available for individuals to learn about IBM i. Some of them require an investment of money and time away from the office, which is where companies must be willing to invest. Attending a conference is a great way to learn from experts and network with peers. Other educational opportunities are available for free, such as iTech’s iAdmin event, and only require your time.

As I see it, we have an education problem. We need more Universities to offer IBM i education and more people willing to teach their colleagues what they know. Companies must also be willing to hire someone without experience in IBM i and invest in training them. It’s how those of us in the industry got our start, and we have to do the same to fix the IBM i resource shortage.

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