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Blog | COBOL Programming Course

Bridging the Skills Gap with the Open Mainframe Project’s COBOL Programming Course

By | March 6, 2024

             Michael Bauer & Sudharsana Srinivasa

Written by Michael Bauer, Co-chair of the COBOL Programming Course and Software Engineering Supervisor at Broadcom; and Sudharsana Srinivasan, Co-Chair of COBOL Programming Course and IBM Z Technical Enablement Manager




The Importance of COBOL (Credit: DALL-E)

An Established Presence

COBOL running on mainframes continues to be responsible for the often unseen operation of the world’s economy. Financial institutions, insurance companies, retailers, and government entities rely on these systems for their reliability, availability, security, scalability, and performance.

Despite its pivotal role, COBOL faces a generational skills gap as many experienced programmers retire. Recognizing this challenge, the Open Mainframe Project has launched and continues to drive forward a COBOL Programming Course with a mission to:

  • Attract the next generation of learners to add COBOL to their tech toolkit
  • Improve the learning experience through modern tooling
  • Create an enthusiastic community of learners

The course stands out by offering practical experience to learners through hands-on labs on z/OS. By enabling developers to effectively learn COBOL, the program not only helps to ensure that mission-critical applications continue to run smoothly but also opens up career opportunities in an area where demand for skilled professionals exceeds supply.

We encourage you to try our latest course, available on GitHub, and join our community of over six thousand learners on the #cobol-programming-course channel on the Open Mainframe Project Slack!

Collaboration within the Open Mainframe Project (Credit: DALL-E)

A Year of Collaboration

Collaboration within the Open Mainframe Project (Credit: DALL-E)

In 2023, we owe most of our progress to our collaborations with our learners and other Open Mainframe projects. Community members continue to collaborate and help each other, which really makes this initiative viable. Therefore, we’d like to say THANK YOU to everyone who helped someone with COBOL this year!

We also enhanced our course by adding a new chapter on testing. This addition can be attributed to a partnership with the Open Mainframe Project’s COBOL-Check project in combination with the mentorship program. We’d like to thank Rune Christensen of COBOL-Check and our mentee Ashis Kumar Naik for his dedication in contributing this content. I’d also like to commend fellow Technical Steering Committee (TSC) members Sudharsana Srinivasan and Hartanto Ario Widjaya for their review and oversight on this initiative. You can try out this new course now by accessing our latest release.

We also continue to collaborate with members of Zowe as it plays a critical role in enabling the hands-on labs in the COBOL course.

The Path Forward

In 2024, the TSC of the COBOL Programming Course project would like to expand the course to contain more CICS content. CICS stands for Customer Information Control Systems and is a powerhouse of a transaction processing subsystem on z/OS. We are certainly seeking experts in the field to contribute to both the educational content as well as the hands-on labs.

As the Broadcom donated z15 system comes online, we would like to enable our hands-on labs to be completed on this Open Mainframe Project system. Access to this system will better enable us to include hands-on labs involving CICS and continue to build and execute on a strategic roadmap that is focused on learner experience.

You can also influence our direction by opening requests in our GitHub, such as this request to add content around COBOL Communication with Java Methods. You can view our high-level roadmap here. If you are able and willing to contribute to any of these initiatives, please reach out.

Learn more about the COBOL Programming Course and other Open Mainframe projects in the 2023 Annual Report. Click here to download it.