Cobol Today

The COBOL programming language remains in demand
JENNIFER FORESHEW
The Australian
Thursday March 7, 2013

MORE than 70 per cent of academic leaders believe that organisations will continue to rely on applications built using COBOL for the next 10 years or more, but only 18 per cent have it as a core part of their course, research finds. The global survey of academics from 119 universities, including in Australia and New Zealand, found 73 per cent of academics running IT courses at universities around the world do not have COBOL programming as part of their curriculum. The findings, released today, come from enterprise application modernisation, testing and management solutions provider Micro Focus, and explain why COBOL programmers are increasingly hard to locate, recruit and retain.

COBOL supports 90 per cent of Fortune 500 business systems every day and 70 per cent of all critical business logic and data is written in COBOL.

Of the 27 per cent of academics who have COBOL programming as part of the curriculum, only 18 per cent had it as a core part and the remaining nine per cent made it an elective component. The survey found in the last year the largest volume of skilled developers introduced to the job market by their academic institutions were Java programmers, followed by C# and C++ programmers.

COBOL developers fared the worst, with significantly fewer graduates than the rest. Only five per cent introduced more than 30 COBOL developers to the market. The research found 65 per cent gave a negative response when asked how they thought their IT course students felt about COBOL skills. Thirty-nine per cent of academics believe their students viewed COBOL as uncool and outdated, 13 per cent said COBOL was dead and 15 per cent said they would not know what COBOL was.

When asked what academic institutions needed to support a COBOL curriculum, the largest proportion (43 per cent) cited the top priority as students requesting it. Nearly a third did not know if the programming skills of their graduates, whatever the language, helped them gain employment.

The majority of academic leaders (64 per cent) also believe government was not doing enough to assist in addressing the IT skills gap issue. The research found 63 per cent of respondents said facilitating, sponsoring and encouraging greater collaboration between business organisations and academic communities teaching COBOL programming was important. Overall, 58 per cent said cultural change was needed if students, academic institutions and businesses were going to be prepared for the future in relation to COBOL programming skills.

"Business organisations and academic institutions need to work together to showcase COBOL as a relevant, in-demand business skill with a promising future," Micro Focus product management senior director Kevin Brearley said, in a statement. "Itís the language behind 65 per cent of all active code and 85 per cent of all daily business transactions. Business requires these skills to support existing applications, but also to shape and develop the applications of tomorrow."

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