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Connecting Candidates to Customers

By Destination Z posted Mon December 23, 2019 03:26 PM


The IBM Academic Initiative was created to help students get the skills and training needed to meet industry demands. The program works with academic institutions and provides resources, support and virtual access to IBM mainframes. It also opens up opportunities like the Master the Mainframe competition, along with pathways to certifications and badges.

Companies find these achievements desirable as they search for qualified students to join their operation, but it can be difficult to find these qualified applicants. That’s why I founded zSkills Corp—a company that connects qualified students with hands-on mainframe experience to companies looking for the best and brightest.

Joining Together

In spring 2016, zSkills Corp aligned exclusively with the IBM Academic Initiative. While talking with members of the mainframe community in Minneapolis, where my company is based, I kept hearing the same two questions: “Where can we get mainframe training?” and “Where can we find mainframe talent with hands-on mainframe experience?”

After performing an assessment of the mainframe skills landscape, I found there was an industry-wide need for mainframe skills and mainframe training. While looking to identify the short-, mid- and long-term mainframe skills needs of the mainframe community, I connected with Don Resnik, director, IBM Z Systems Academic Initiative. Through collaboration with others on the IBM Academic Initiative team, the idea was developed to connect mainframe talent from IBM mainframe education programs—vetted by zSkills Corp—to IBM customers and ISVs throughout North America.

IBM has been working to better assist clients with students and schools teaching IBM Z programs, and zSkills aligns with this priority. “Partnering with zSkills Corp enables us to better serve our community and grow the program,” Resnik says.

“Every business wants to attract, retain and advance their mainframe skills,” Resnik points out. “zSkills Corp provides a valuable service to our clients to meet those objectives. IBM is connecting zSkills Corp with member schools so they can promote and place students who are serious about careers in Enterprise Computing with IBM Z. I encourage our community to use the service.”

Together, zSkills Corp worked with IBM mainframe customers, IBM Mainframe Support Professionals and Academic Initiative staff to determine the technical and interpersonal skills mainframe candidates should possess. This collaboration helped us develop criteria for identifying mainframe talent that would best meet the needs of the mainframe community.

Fast Forward to 2018

Today, zSkills Corp works closely with the Academic Initiative to:

  • Connect mainframe students from over 150 Academic Initiative colleges and universities in the United States to some of the largest and most successful mainframe organizations in the world
  • Make Academic Initiative schools aware of opportunities for students to further their mainframe education by participating in Academic Initiative sponsored events such as the Master the Mainframe competition, free online learning offerings and opportunities to earn badges for learning various mainframe skills. Most recently, the Academic Initiative has started inviting mainframe students to attend industry events such as the local z Customer Council meetings.  z Customer Council meetings give students an opportunity to interact with mainframe professionals from the local mainframe community.
  • Make the mainframe community aware of the work the Academic Initiative is doing and the benefits of hiring a student who is attending or has graduated from an Academic Initiative college or university
  • Recruit new schools to teach the mainframe. zSkills Corp works with the Academic Initiative to recruit industry representatives to attend Enterprise Systems Industry Roundtable sessions. This makes mainframe skills needs known to colleges and universities interested in adding mainframe curriculum to their course offerings. 


Fulfilling Opportunities

The services zSkills Corp provides are personally important to me. This is one of the most fulfilling opportunities I’ve been a part of. 

Utilizing zSkills Corp services is free for students. Each mainframe student candidate is fully vetted by zSkills Corp prior to being presented to an IBM mainframe customer seeking vetted mainframe talent. To find out more about the IBM Academic Initiative and zSkills Corp. partnership or how to get started, contact me by phone at (612) 791-8506, by email at or visit the zSkills Corp website for more information.

Ron Fresquez is the CEO and founder of zSkills Corp