In last week’s blog entry, we talked about a program designed to interest high school kids in careers in programming. Once that interest is sparked, many schools are part of the IBM Academic Initiative that offers training on System i and programming. The Academic Initiative offers schools support, course materials as well as access to hardware and software. Many of the schools also get support from one or more local companies or Business Partners who use the System i platform.
Some of the schools are struggling to keep their System i programs going. In many cases, the major problem they face is one of a lack of placement options for their graduates. This seems strange to us, because in our travels we often hear about a lack of System i and/or RPG programming staff. So if RPG programmers are in short supply, why can’t the schools place their graduates?
In many cases, it’s because the companies that have open positions insist on considering only experienced people. So the kids leave school with their training and their certificates and have nowhere to go to utilize and grow those skills.
Of course, if you’ve lost a very senior-level person in the shop and are looking to replace him/her, you think first of filling the position with someone with similar skills and experience. But we’d like to encourage all of the shops out there with current openings to consider giving recent graduates a chance to prove themselves. Of course they’ll need some additional guidance but there are significant advantages. You may be surprised at how your business can benefit from the fresh new approach to solving technical and business problems that comes from the newbies. The schools often teach additional skills that your experienced RPG developers may not have (e.g., Web programming, PHP or Java). If you don’t feel ready to jump straight into hiring a recent graduate, you might want to consider taking on some System i students as interns even before they graduate. It will let them gain a little of that valuable experience and give you a chance to find the more promising students that you may want to hire after they graduate.
How do you find these students or graduates? Take a look at the IBM Academic Initiative for System i Web page and click on the “Participating Schools” tab to locate a school near you. The contact name listed would be a great place to start.
What if no schools near you are listed? This may be a great opportunity to work with a local university, community college or technical school to begin a System i curriculum in your area. Contact your local user group if you have one, or some other companies whose businesses run on the System i platform and approach a local school about how important these skills are to your businesses. Contact the folks at the IBM Academic Initiative for System i for information on the program and support opportunities available. It’s not even necessary for the school to install its own System i server to run the curriculum because IBM offers a remote system that schools can share for that purpose.
We need more young people in our System i community. Once they see what it’s like they become as enthusiastic as we “experienced” folks are about it. We received a request recently from someone who has been doing PHP programming and wanted to know how to get started learning RPG and the System i platform. He knows a good thing when he sees it and is keen to learn more about developing business applications on the platform.
Some lucky company will get a valuable new resource when they hire this person. But that company will need to be one that’s willing to take on someone who doesn’t have years of experience in RPG or a specific ERP application or EDI–but who does have great aptitude and attitude.
In many ways the future of the System i platform is in our own hands and it’s time to give some new blood a chance!