The Division of Research and Economic Development (DORED) at North Carolina A&T State University in conjunction with Lead Principal Investigator Dr. Cameron Seay, in the College of Science and Technology, has secured a federal contract through the U.S. Department of Labor. The five-year contract, with a value of $7.5 million, will be utilized to increase the numbers of underrepresented minorities and women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) related fields. The contract will focus specifically on information technology as it relates to talent development for mainframe computers, on which the global economy depends.

The term “mainframe computer” is usually associated with the IBM Corporation. With the advent and wide availability of micro-computing in the 1980s and beyond, mainframes were targeted for extinction because of their immense size and cost. While smaller computers with tremendous power have indeed revolutionized information technology, the heaviest input/output functions such as transaction processing, airline reservations and cellular signal routing are still left to the heavy lifters: mainframe computers. Although these big workhorses still play a vital role in the technology spectrum, the United States is facing a looming problem: the employees who have understood and serviced mainframes since the 1980s are retiring at a staggering rate.

“It’s true,” explains Seay. “Over the last 40 years, the lion’s share of IT talent has been attracted to the microcomputing sector, leaving mainframes comparatively untouched and unstudied. Most universities stripped mainframe technology from their curriculum long ago, which is why we’re facing a talent vacuum today. Fortunately, N.C. A&T has retained a robust and growing technology education and training program in this area, and we’re ready to step up for the Department of Labor, the corporate entities, and indeed the world economy which relies so heavily on this important technology.”

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