IBM has revamped its System i5 Academic Initiative, appointing University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) as its new worldwide hub. As part of the strategy, Big Blue pledged to do better at promoting iSeries jobs to potential students.
According to Linda Grigoleit, Program Manager, System i5 Academic Initiative, IBM customers and ISVs are clamoring for entry level iSeries workers -- a sentiment echoed by iSeries recruiter Nate Viall.
"We hear it from customers and business partners. They need people graduating with these skills," Grigoleit said. "Everyone from [iSeries general manager] Mark Shearer down is involved. We're hearing it from customers, telling us we're not doing enough with the academic initiative."
IBM has had a university program under various names for several years. It's tied into hundreds of schools, some with modules on DB2 or other operations, others with full-blown iSeries programs.
IBM has the resources to help schools get on board with the iSeries and IT in general. They offer deep discounts to universities for equipment and offer IBM staff to help teach the curriculum. But that hasn't had the effect IBM was looking for.
To drive the message home, IBM is bringing customers to the campus In fact, IBM brought customers with them last week to the launch event for the UNL hub, including Omaha, Neb.-based trucking company Werner Enterprises and Sidney, Neb.-based sporting goods giant Cabela's.
The U.S. has seen shrinking student interest in IT across the board for a number of reasons, but the main reason was a lack of hiring in the recent past.
"One reason is the economy's downturn. There wasn't a lot of hiring going on. Number two is the dot.com bust which took its toll. Another is all of the outsourcing we read about in the media. It's a psychological barrier," Grigoleit said.
According to professor Sang. M. Lee, chair of the management department at UNL, the pattern is cyclical. "We had great demand during the Y2K and the Dot.com days, but the bubble burst and demand declined. But I'm beginning to see signs that demand is back."
Lee attended a one-day workshop in Rochester last year to get up to speed on the iSeries and came away with a better understanding of the system. "The whole trend for management is moving toward on-demand, and not just in computing but in everything. IBM's on-demand computing is providing what's valued in the market."
Lee said UNL is currently conducting research on how best to use on-demand computing in the business.
UNL offers MIS courses dealing with a number of topics including systems analysis and design, object orientation and data mining. In all of the courses, Lee said the college would like to introduce one module on the iSeries into the curriculum.
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