Recently, Search400.com asked readers if they would recommend RPG or COBOL programming as a career for their children. The question seemed to hit close to home for many iSeries pros. Here is a sampling of the responses.
No more propeller-heads?
Actually, I talked [my son] out of it. There may have been jobs a plenty in 1998 and 1999, but there sure aren't now. A lot of places that were AS/400 shops have switched to Oracle or other "less antiquated" technology. I know good RPG programmers that could not find programming jobs at all, one is estimating for a home renovation supplier. The AS/400 shops that remain will survive for the next 20 years with programmers my age (40-ish), and then they'll retire Big Blue when they retire us. I didn't see any future in it, and the training for it here in Southern Ontario is not prevalent. I steered him into robotics and his programming skill toward CAD, PLC and Numerical Control. I can see a future in that. He starts college next week, and was hesitant to give up heads down propeller-head type programming, so hopefully it comes out all right in the end.
Do as I say, not as I do
I would advise them not to take those courses but then again I just recently got hired for an RPG programming position. I've programmed in COBOL and C and never thought I'd use this language in a job. The reason they hired me was because I had previous experience with the AS400, using COBOL and I convinced them I could learn any language even RPG. I was happy to see that RPG IV is a far cry from the RPG I learned years ago in college. But no, many companies that use the AS400 are going to the ILE environment where they will be able to use C, or Java. So I would say stick with those languages.
Keeping them interested
Yes, I would direct my son to learn RPG or COBOL. In fact, I work at a University (it doesn't even know how to spell RPG let alone iSeries). I have a couple of students that I have hired that are mainly doing Web development on other platforms but one of the students is being directed to some projects on the iSeries. Thus, he is learning RPG IV in house. It would be wonderful to direct these kids to something that would enhance their iSeries skills [such as] IBM internships, pilot education programs brought to the University...something that might keep the interest going.
Yes, I would encourage new programming students to learn RPG. My children are grown and ventured into other occupations. I have one son who has been brainwashed into believing the AS400 and mainframes are dinosaurs and need to be retired. I guess he will learn the hard way someday.
Why limit it to RPG?
I would definitely encourage my college bound child to learn RPG, as well as other iSeries skills, along with their training in Microsoft skills. My rational is that it would give them entry into a job markets that will be around for a long time and that would not be available to them without this training.
The kid's alright
No, I wouldn't. I recently went job hunting for an AS400 job in a major city in the southwest, and only 5 or 6 companies even use the AS400 in that city. My son knows MS SQL, PHP, ASP, and is in a much better position for a job in that major city than I ever will be with my knowledge of RPG.
Yes, either they will need it or someday they will encounter it. A DBA for back-end Website info is still going to be interacting with data from the ERP, which has a good chance of being coded in RPG. There is a reason my mother made me take 2 years of Latin in high-school. I can pick up a Spanish newspaper and figure out most of the words because of the roots in Latin. RPG has been around too long not to be exposed to it. I took RPG, COBOL, Assembler, FORTRAN, and C+ back in my college days but have only used RPG in my professional career. Why should these kids today be any different? I did once have to change a COBOL program and it was a good thing I had the past exposure. My niece did international studies in college and was fluent in English and French but was told by the college that she would need at least a third language for the business world. Basically it comes down to the fact that there are many non-career classes offered and taken by college students. Why not switch one out for an RPG overview?