Attention: Calling All Cobol Veterans

Bill Payson is sick and tired of debating whether Cobol is obsolete. "The fact is, there's so much Cobol out there that companies are going to have to deal with it," said Payson, president of The Senior Staff, a Campbell, Calif.-based online job information data bank for IT workers who are 35 or older.

Payson is helping to organize the Legacy Reserves, which he described as "a free-agent initiative" for retired, semiretired or out-of-work Cobol programmers who are seeking freelance assignments. The plan will be formally launched in June at the Cobol Expo 2002 conference in Chicago.

The Legacy Reserves is being set up by a partnership that also includes the Pleasant Hill, Calif.-based Professional Association of Contract Employees (PACE) and Micro Focus International Ltd., a Rockville, Md.-based vendor whose products include a Cobol software compiler.

Payson, who is working from a database that contains the names of mainframe programmers, many of whom previously were tapped to work on Y2k projects, said he has identified 3,000 to 4,000 Cobol veterans who want to return to work on a contract basis.

"They don't want full-time jobs, but they're sick of sitting on the beach or playing golf all the time," he said.

Although all the details have yet to be worked out, the idea is that companies would go through PACE to contract with workers who are listed in Payson's database. PACE would function as the employer of record for the workers.

The Legacy Reserves also plans to offer workers training in Java and other technologies that can be used to Web-enable mainframe applications, Payson said.

Bob Schwartz, CIO at Matsushita Electric Corporation of America's Panasonic Co. division in Secaucus, N.J., said Payson's database of experienced workers "may become intriguing to use when we need those skills."

But other IT managers said they would prefer to hire full-time employees, not contractors.

"With contractors, there tends to be less of an organizational affiliation," said Louis Gutierrez, former CIO at Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Inc. in Wellesley, Mass.

"With full-time [employees], you can really work on staff development and incorporating them into an organizational mission," added Gutierrez, who's now a principal at Exeter Group Inc., an IT consultancy in Cambridge, Mass.

For more information about Bill Payson's project, visit the Cobol Web Server site at www.cobolwebler.com.

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