Micro Focus Confronts IT Skills Challenge by Expanding Academic Program

Program designed to foster the education and development of industry-ready COBOL professionals within universities worldwide

14 March 2013

The skills gap is a problem that pervades the IT industry. The heavy investment in critical business applications that keep large corporations moving is at risk because graduate qualifications today bear little resemblance to the needs of the industry. Skills in business programming languages like COBOL, CICS and JCL are essential to deliver on the high demands these applications put on corporate IT, but there is a serious need to educate graduates on the value of these skills and help educators bridge the gap between university and employment. In response, Micro Focus (LSE: MCRO.L), the leading provider of enterprise application modernization, testing, and management solutions, today announced the expansion of its Academic Program to support academic institutes, business organizations and students in building the next generation of COBOL developers. To support this, Micro Focus is developing software to tie in with the program, including Enterprise Developer Personal Edition, released in November 2012, and a new solution to be announced later in 2013.

The updated program will enable the education, enablement and development of the COBOL language within universities across the globe. It will support new and existing university IT programs to meet the demands of today’s business organizations, facilitate greater collaboration between businesses and academic communities and provide an interface through which existing students can connect with prospective employers seeking COBOL based development skills. In addition to using this interface to build an employment focused academic COBOL community, it will also be used to host competitions, encouraging students to test their coding skills and rewarding successful students with prizes and the possibility of an internship.

Commenting on the Micro Focus Academic Program, Bill Marlow, Professor at Durham University, Canada said: “Our aim is to teach business relevant and market ready IT courses, which increase the chances of employment for our students after graduation. Many organizations around the world are heavily invested in COBOL and will continue to use it for decades to come. This requires new IT professionals with a mixed skill-set, able to work with both COBOL and newer languages primarily used in frontend systems. Micro Focus’ Academic Program supports this, providing us with the latest tools and technologies to help build the next generation of COBOL developers and directly address the growing IT skills gap. The program also connects us with the wider ecosystem and provides community support to help us ensure our IT courses are always on the pulse of what’s important to business organizations today and tomorrow.”

Kevin Brearley, Senior Director of Product Management at Micro Focus, said: As the number of COBOL developers reaching retirement age increases, the demand for quality, skilled developers to support business-critical COBOL applications continues to rise. At present COBOL supports 90 percent of the Fortune 500 business systems every day and powers 85 percent of all daily business transactions processed. As a result, university programs that teach COBOL programming skills, and importantly, connect those students to business organizations, are vital. Without them, the cost and risk scenario for COBOL-based businesses will continue to elevate.

Continuing, Brearley said: “Businesses must embrace change to face the twin challenge of IT disruption with new technologies like cloud and mobile, and the need for future innovation. The answer is to bridge the skills gap between old and new developers, unifying them through education, process and technology. Our Academic Program aims to do just that, fostering all three while helping businesses and academia prepare the next generation of COBOL developers.”

The new Micro Focus Academic Program provides:

  • Free of charge, Academic Edition software for university sponsored education and research purposes. The Micro Focus Academic software bundle includes both the Enterprise Developer and the Visual COBOL development products
  • Free access to online, community-based, product support services
  • Free access to online Micro Focus product documentation and educator access to COBOL courseware and language reference materials
  • Free Micro Focus web based training courses for participating Academic University educators
  • The opportunity for joint technology research engagements with Micro Focus
  • Student access to licenses of Enterprise Developer and Visual COBOL for at-home and off-campus use
  • Membership within the Academic Alliance® connecting participating Academic Institutions, current Students & Employment seeking IT Professionals, and leading Business Organizations together. This network, through information exchange and social dialogue aims to bridge both the cultural and the technological industry challenges faced by the growing pressures of the IT skills gap.

About Micro Focus

Micro Focus, a member of the FTSE 250, provides innovative software that allows companies to dramatically improve the business value of their enterprise applications. Micro Focus Enterprise Application Modernization, Testing and Management software enables customers' business applications to respond rapidly to market changes and embrace modern architectures with reduced cost and risk. For additional information please visit www.microfocus.com.

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