CSU Marks 20 Years of Preparing Students for Mainframes

COLUMBUS, Ga. -- Columbus State University, TSYS and IBM are celebrating a 20-year milestone as a result of their partnership to meet the needs of the technology workforce of the future.

CSU has now educated and trained more than 1,000 students in mainframe and large enterprise skills specifically for careers at TSYS, a leading provider of electronic payments solutions. Columbus State and TSYS, along with the state Board of Regents, collaborated to create an innovative, diverse curriculum to meet the specialized needs of high-tech industries. In all, CSU has educated early 2,500 students for technology careers at companies across the globe during those 20 years.

CSU has worked with IBM to develop its curriculum, gaining access to working IBM mainframes via central hubs and offering guest lecturer opportunities and career fairs to help its students find jobs working with mainframe and large enterprise computing systems at TSYS. IBM formally launched its Academic Initiative for System z program in 2004, with Columbus State as one of the first participants.

“It has been proven over the last 40 years that the IBM mainframe is the core of the enterprise data center universe and a technology that is never going to go away,” said Professor Wayne Summers, chairman of CSU’s TSYS Department of Computer Science. “We have been educating and training our students for careers by using a technology platform that we believe in, and organizations like TSYS see it as the foundation for their own data centers. We’re pleased to play a role in this collaborative partnership.”

Columbus State offers a bachelor’s in computer science, a bachelor’s in information technology and a master’s in Applied Computer Science. In the past 20 years, CSU has awarded nearly 2,500 certificates, diplomas and degrees in computer science and computer programming. TSYS has hired more than 1,000 of those computer programmers and mainframe experts, and more than 800 are still full-time employees at TSYS.

“Our knowledgeable, consultative team members are the lifeblood of our company and we continually need to add the best programmers in the world to maintain, update and program our IBM mainframes with the latest technology and software to enable constant reliability and availability to our customers,” said Troy Woods, president and chief operating officer of TSYS. “Our relationship with Columbus State University and IBM provides us the strategic insight and access to some of the best mainframe and large enterprise computing skills in the world, and we’re looking forward to continually employing new generations of mainframe programmers.”

As part of its degree programs, Columbus State currently offers courses in Structured Programming with COBOL, Assembly Language Programming and Introduction to Transaction Processing. It plans to offer future courses on Object-oriented COBOL, Websphere, SOA and Virtualization.

“Organizations that own zSeries platforms should make an investment of time and involvement in programs to ensure a steady supply of candidates with the right mix of skills,” Phil Murphy, a Forrester Research analyst, said in a recent report^. “Even if CIOs face no current shortage of mainframe resources, realize that the laws of supply and demand cut both ways — increased competition for talented mainframe resources is likely to become a catalyst for staff attrition in the coming years.”

Launched in 2004, the overall IBM Academic Initiative is a program offering a wide range of technology education benefits, from IBM-supplied instruction to technology, that can scale to meet the goals of most colleges and universities. The IBM Academic Initiative for System z program works with schools to enable courses, labs, senior design projects and research in large systems thinking.

“The IBM mainframe is the foundation for the data center today, a proven technology platform that clients are betting their entire infrastructures on,” said Kathleen Pfeiffer, program manager of the IBM Academic Initiative for System z. “The students of today are going to be responsible for the future operations of the mainframe, and it is thanks to key schools like Columbus State University that students are learning a wide range of mainframe skills and gaining hands-on experience to apply at those very companies that need the skill-sets – like TSYS. The success of IBM, TSYS and Columbus State is the very essence of our Academic Initiative for System z program.”

In February, IBM announced that it had helped educate nearly 50,000 students globally on mainframe and large enterprise skills and surpassed 400 colleges and universities involved in the IBM Academic Initiative for System z program, up from just 24 schools in 2004.