The Open Mainframe Project is looking to fill a technology skills gap by providing COBOL resources to the public sector. 

According to the project, more than 10 million people in the United States have filed for unemployment due to the COVID-19 crisis, and there is an emergent need for COBOL programmers.

“This pandemic underscores the critical nature for public sector mainframe applications to be agile and easily modified to meet fast-changing requirements,” Open Mainframe Project wrote in a blog post. “The challenge many cities and states are facing now is changing their COBOL code fast enough to respond to the increased unemployment payment eligibility in a very short timeframe.”

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One of the resources is a new Open Mainframe Project forum where developers and programmers who would like to volunteer or are available for hire can post their profiles, describing their COBOL expertise. 

Also, a new COBOL Technical Forum will be created specifically for COBOL technical questions which will be monitored by experienced COBOL programmers.

“This will allow all levels of programmers to quickly learn new techniques and draw from a broad range of experience and expertise to address common questions and challenges arising during this unprecedented time,” Open Mainframe Project wrote. 

Lastly, a new open-source COBOL training project will lead collaboration for training materials on COBOL. The courseware was contributed by IBM. 

“This call for skills is a great example of how communities, and in particular open source communities, pulling together can quickly and efficiently address critical needs in times of crisis,” said Alan Clark, an Open Mainframe governing board member of the SUSE CTO Office.

As part of the project’s COBOL intiative, a number of other different companies are providing resources for the mainframe. Broadcom is offering Code4z on VS Code Marketplace, IBM is providing COBOL training, and Rocket Software is providing BlueZone Web.

“IBM is proud to have worked over the past 24 hours with the Open Mainframe Project to mobilize our community to address the resource challenges the public sector is facing in these unprecedented times. Being of service to our world and the systems that power it remain our priority and this new initiative provides an immediate way to connect skilled professionals where needs arise. IBM and our partner ecosystem are also directly engaged in helping clients manage their spikes in demand and our experts are on standby to help in any other way we can,” said Meredith Stowell, vice president of the IBM Z Ecosystem

More information is available here.