Navigating the RPG Developer Landscape: The Internal Talent Goldmine
If you are in an IBM i shop, there is a good chance you have RPG developers who (have gray hair) are close to retirement. As you know, we don’t believe that companies need to panic just because of RPG retirements, but we do believe they need to prepare.
The RPG developer is an asset to any IBM i shop and is essential to the future of any organization that relies on RPG applications.
The Value of RPG Developers in Modern Organizations
If you are new to or have been in an IBM i shop your whole career, you know (or you will soon find out) how important RPG developers are to the organization.
They are vital to any forward-thinking organization because they:
- Help streamline business operations
- Play a critical role in upgrading and integrating legacy systems with newer technologies
- Create customized solutions based on their in-depth knowledge of business operations
All too often, the focus is solely on the technical skills of the RPG developer. While skill and competence are important, the ability to synthesize business processes with technology is a unique and invaluable skill that should not be overlooked.
So, where do we find the talent?
The Internal Solution: The Best Place to Find RPG Developers
One of the best places to find RPG developers is internally.
Too many organizations have drifted away from the best way to find RPG talent. Search for employees who are underutilized and show passion. It is one of the best ways to find your next RPG developer.
Individuals in roles like accounting, finance, supply chain, and warehousing could be ideal candidates for retraining, due to their existing understanding of the company and its processes.
It’s a simple shift in thinking.
Training the Future: The Apprentice-Style Program
An “Apprentice-Style Program” refers to a structured training initiative where individuals (apprentices) learn a specific trade or profession by working under the guidance and supervision of skilled professionals (mentors or trainers).
Key elements of an apprentice-style program often include:
- Structured Learning: Apprentices undergo structured training, learning the theoretical aspects of their field, which they then apply in practical settings.
- On-the-Job Training: Apprentices spend a significant portion of their training time working on real-world tasks and projects, thereby gaining practical, hands-on experience.
- Mentorship: Each apprentice is often paired with an experienced mentor who provides guidance, feedback, and support, enhancing the learning experience.
- Duration: These programs typically have a defined duration, ranging from several months to a few years, depending on the complexity of the skill or trade being learned.
- Employment Opportunity: Upon successful completion of the program, apprentices are often offered a full-time role in their field of training within the organization, though this is not guaranteed in all cases.
In the context of RPG development, an apprentice-style program would involve teaching employees about RPG programming concepts, languages, and tools, followed by practical assignments and tasks under the supervision of experienced RPG developers. This allows them to gain an in-depth understanding of RPG development while also getting practical experience.
The Implementation: Rolling Out an Apprenticeship Program
Implementing an RPG apprenticeship program will have some challenges, such as choosing the right candidates, securing resources, structuring the program, setting up the curriculum, and measuring its success.
Here are some steps and ideas on how this might be accomplished.
- Assess Internal Needs and Resources: The first step is to understand the organization’s need for RPG developers and what resources are already available. What skills are needed? How many positions need to be filled? What training resources does the organization already possess?
- Identify Potential Candidates: Next, identify employees within the organization who show potential for the RPG developer role. They could be individuals who have shown a knack for problem-solving, have a strong understanding of the company’s operations, or have expressed interest in learning new skills.
- Partner with a Training Company: Once you’ve assessed your needs and identified potential candidates, it’s time to look for a suitable training partner. Seek out companies with expertise in RPG and apprenticeship programs. They can provide training resources, curriculum, and even instructors to facilitate the program. imPower Technologies is one option, they offer a Turnkey RPG Training program that you can plug into your Apprenticeship program.
- Develop a Curriculum: Whether with the help of a third-party or internally, you’ll need to create a curriculum for your apprenticeship program. This should cover essential RPG developer skills, as well as specific skills related to your industry or company.
- Implement the Program: Roll out the program to your selected candidates. Make sure to provide plenty of support and resources to help them succeed, such as mentorship opportunities, access to learning materials, and time to study and practice.
- Monitor Progress and Gather Feedback: Keep track of the program’s progress and gather feedback from participants regularly. This will allow you to make necessary adjustments and improvements along the way.
- Evaluate Success: At the end of the program, evaluate its success. Have your apprentices developed the necessary skills? Are they ready to take on RPG developer roles in your company?
- Continuous Improvement: Always look for ways to improve the program based on the feedback and experiences of the participants.
The key to a successful apprenticeship program is a commitment to learning and developing your talent from within.
The Long-term Impact: Benefits to the Company and Employees
Some of the most successful organizations I deal with have a culture of mentorship derived from an apprenticeship-type approach to learning.
There are tremendous benefits for both the company and its employees.
For the company:
- Retention and Loyalty: By investing in employees’ career development, companies can improve job satisfaction and employee retention. Employees will likely be more loyal to a company that has invested in their skills and career advancement.
- Cost-Effective Talent Development: Combined with external hiring, apprenticeship programs can be a great way to develop talent.
- Continuity of Culture and Knowledge: Internal talent development helps preserve organizational culture and knowledge. Employees who have been with the company for some time understand the company’s values, processes, and systems, which can enhance the quality of their work.
- Bridging the Skills Gap: Apprenticeship programs can help companies tackle RPG developer shortages, by training existing employees, they can ensure a steady pipeline of skilled IBM i developers.
- Career Advancement Opportunities: An apprenticeship program can offer a clear path for career progression, enhancing employees’ job satisfaction and motivation.
- Skill Development: Employees have the opportunity to learn new skills, which can enhance their value in the job market and potentially increase their earning potential.
- Job Security: By expanding their skill set, employees can enhance their job security. It gives them the skills needed to adapt to new roles within the company.
- Mentorship: Through the apprenticeship program, employees have the opportunity to learn from experienced mentors. This can help them develop their skills more effectively and gain valuable insights into the field.
IBM i apprenticeship programs can create a win-win situation, helping companies build a talented RPG development staff that offers valuable opportunities for career development and skill enhancement.
RPG apprenticeship programs work whether they are developed in-house, by using an outside training company, or a combination of the two.
They are effective because they offer a balanced approach to training and hiring RPG developers for the future. They combine practical experience with structured learning, which fosters employee loyalty, and addresses your organization’s RPG talent needs.
Committed to the IBM i
If you would like to hear some examples of IBM i shops that are committed to developing and hiring RPG talent, who have implemented this style of training program, feel free to reach out to us for more information.