End of the road for legacy staff?

I am an analyst programmer with more than 15 years' Cobol experience on ICL mainframes. I have been made redundant and cannot...

I am an analyst programmer with more than 15 years' Cobol experience on ICL mainframes. I have been made redundant and cannot find either a mainframe or a cross-training position in the Birmingham area. I have completed a course in Visual Basic but employers always require commercial experience. How I can move forward?

Define and maximise your skills

Gordon Greaves

E-skills NTO

I am sorry to say that you have found yourself right in the middle of the great IT debacle. Employers are crying out for people with IT skills but will not retrain people with proven ability.

You need to assess what skills you already have and maximise them when applying for a new position. You may view yourself as "just" a legacy programmer, but what are your other skills? Let me suggest a few and you decide which ones are relevant.

First, you are a systematic problem solver with business experience, you have good interpersonal skills, you can communicate with people at all levels, you can produce user documentation, you can develop and carry out test routines, you can learn. All of these skills transfer to any IT environment, so the trick is to sell yourself on the basis of what you can do. And if a potential employer has any sense they will support and retrain you in any particular platform or product.

I strongly believe that if we are to resolve the skills shortage in IT we must first really understand the skills we need (the National Occupational Standards for IT define these). Programming languages are an important tool of the job - they are not the job itself.

Keep trying, you are a valuable member of the IT community with 15 years' experience and I hope a new employer will recognise this soon.

The panel: Apex, MSB International, Best International Group, Computer Futures, Computer People, Elan, E-skills NTO, Monarch Recruitment, Reed Computing

This was last published in March 2001

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