Where is the Next Generation of IBM i Developers Coming From?
IBM i, formerly known as AS/400, is an enterprise-grade platform that has been used by businesses for over 30 years. With its robust and reliable architecture, it has become the backbone of many businesses, in manufacturing, distribution, retail and finance sectors.
However, as the demand for modern technologies grows, there is a concern about where the next generation of IBM i developers will come from.
Since the late 80’s…
Since the late 80s, the general consensus amongst most companies in the UK has been that the AS/400 is on its way out, and therefore investment in bringing younger developers onto the platform has not been high on priorities.
Nonetheless, there were several companies including IBM offering training from scratch that included the then S/38 and AS/400 operating system and RPG programming. In the UK it is now very hard to find similar offerings, this training can be sourced online from the States, but time differences may make this an impractical option.
Fast forward to the 2020’s…
Fast forward to the 2020’s and many developers who started life on the early IBM systems have either been promoted into senior roles, cross-trained to other systems, have retired, or are looking to retire soon.
The IBM i platform is not as well-known as other platforms like Windows, Linux, and macOS. As a result, there are not as many people who are familiar with the platform, which means there are fewer people who are qualified to develop applications for it. Additionally, the IBM i platform uses a programming language called RPG (Report Program Generator), which is not widely taught in universities.
The IBM i user interface is ‘green screen’ and is a far cry from modern windows graphical interfaces that younger people are familiar with.
It is hard to gain the interest of the younger generation in developing on the IBM i because many of the applications were written decades ago and support/modification requires knowledge of a fixed format programming style. Fortunately the IBM I has been moving with the times and programming RPG is now fully free format and IBM i supports Java development with a native JDK.
So, where are the next generation of IBM i developers coming from? There are a few different sources:
- Cross-training from other platforms: Many developers who work on other platforms, such as Windows or Linux, may not be familiar with the IBM i platform but have transferable skills that can be applied to the platform. By offering cross-training opportunities, businesses can bring in developers who have experience with other platforms and teach them the specific skills needed to work on the IBM i platform. IBM currently run courses to cross-train developers who are working on other systems onto the IBM i.
- Apprenticeships and internships: Apprenticeships and internships are a great way to bring in new talent and give them the training and experience they need to become proficient IBM i developers. This is obviously costly as although salary expectations are not high the time invested to train can be costly and utilises existing experienced resources.
- Community outreach and education: Finally, businesses and organizations that rely on the IBM i platform can help to raise awareness of the platform and the opportunities it offers. By hosting workshops, webinars, and other educational events, businesses can introduce the platform to developers who may not be familiar with it and show them the benefits of working on the IBM i platform.
In conclusion, there are many, many UK businesses running IBM i systems and their applications managing business critical functions. Whilst there is an ongoing demand, companies will need to invest in the procurement and development of new talent to support and develop these systems into the future or turn to an IBM i specialist such as KFA.
At KFA we have employed school leavers and put them through apprenticeship schemes and have also employed college leavers and undergraduates and trained them to develop on the IBM i.
IT is not everyone’s cup of tea, but we have had our fair share of success with some very talented 20-year-olds now part of our development team.
Richard AustinKFA Connect – Director
3rd April 2023
Want to know more? Get in touch with our team today.