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COVID and Labor Shortages in US – Wanted: People who know COBOL for UI program coding

On top of ventilators, face masks and health care workers, you can now add COBOL programmers to the list of what several states urgently need as they battle the coronavirus pandemic.

In New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy has put out a call for volunteers who know how to code the decades-old computer programming language called COBOL because many of the state’s systems still run on older mainframes.
In Kansas, Gov. Laura Kelly said the state’s Departments of Labor was in the process of modernizing from COBOL but then the virus interfered. “So they’re operating on really old stuff,” she said.

Connecticut has also admitted that it’s struggling to process the large volume of unemployment claims with its “40-year-old system comprised of a COBOL mainframe and four other separate systems.” The state is working to develop a new benefits system with Maine, Rhode Island, Mississippi and Oklahoma. But the system won’t be finished before next year.
“Literally, we have systems that are 40-plus-years-old,” New Jersey Gov. Murphy said over the weekend. “There’ll be lots of postmortems and one of them on our list will be how did we get here where we literally needed COBOL programmers?”

Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor. Read the whole story @ Wanted: People who know a half century-old computer language so states can process unemployment claims – CNN

Referring to the language as Cobalt, last week Phil Murphy, Governor of the US State of New Jersey asked in his daily press briefing for volunteers who could step in and help run mainframe systems that date back over 40 years and are struggling to cope with increased demand. Specifically New Jersey saw over 362,000 new unemployment insurance claims in a two-week period to the end of March placing an impossible burden on its COBOL-based systems.

According to the Open Mainframe Project:

More than 10 million people in the United States have filed for unemployment amid the COVID-19 global pandemic and financial crisis. As these numbers continue to grow, a big technology skills gap is starting to emerge as well. 

The Open Mainframe Project, which operates within the Linux Foundation, is open source initiative that enables collaboration across the mainframe community to develop shared tool sets and resources. Maemalynn Meanor post to its blog on April 9th:

We quickly mobilized across our membership including Broadcom, IBM, Phoenix Software, Rocket Software, SUSE, Vicom Infinity and Zoss Team, for three new resources in response to this urgent need from our public sector officials.

These are two new forums. The first titled Calling all COBOL Programmers is where developers and programmers who would like to volunteer or are available for hire can post their profiles. The second, the COBOL Technical Forum, which will be monitored by experienced COBOL programmers is intended to allow all levels of programmers to quickly learn new techniques and draw from a broad range of experience and expertise to address common questions and challenges. The third resource, Open Source COBOL Training is a new open source project that will lead collaboration for training materials on COBOL. Its courseware is being contributed by IBM, based on its work with clients and institutes of higher education, and will be available soon under an open source license on GitHub.

Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor. Read the whole story @ Wanted – COBOL Programmers



  1. Pingback: COVID and UI in US – Changes inState Unemployment Insurance Rules | Job Market Monitor - April 19, 2020

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