According to a recent Computerworld article, companies still add 5 billion lines of COBOL code to their data center operations each year. Given that number and the aging population of COBOL programmers, can COBOL programmers demand top dollar in the post-Y2K economy?

The article cites a study by the META Group that says 55 percent of mainframe programmers are over the age of 50.

Career advice for the mainframe programmer columnist Tim Heard offers advice to a seven-year mainframe programmer veteran on how to get more experience using technologies that Web-enable mainframe applications and what such experience can mean for his career.

Michael Garloch, team lead for banking applications and mainframe support for MidAmerica Bank Corp., agrees with the survey findings: “I think that the mainframe is not going to go away, because large companies still need to crunch large amounts of data in a short amount of time.” Garloch notes that it is not just the knowledge of COBOL that is valuable, but programmers’ understanding of how the entire system works. “I know not just COBOL but how the system and file structure works, as well. Companies want mainframe expertise and how to get the mainframe system to work with other client-server applications. Programmers with that kind of experience are hard to come by,” said Garloch.

Tell us what you think. How can organizations train programmers who are interested in the latest-and-greatest rather than a language that has been around for more than 30 years? Would pairing a Java jockey with a seasoned mainframe programmer allow them to exchange skill sets? How can companies tap that diminishing knowledge base?

Can COBOL skills still earn good money?

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