BCS MTP: The Mainframe Certifications – with David Laird

by Mirek Burnejko

David Laird BCS MTPThis is an interview with David Laird. David was working on a development of the BCS Mainframe Technology Professional certifications.

I was thinking, that the Mainframe world is losing the power on the market, then I found this information: 95% of the Fortune 500 companies use IBM Mainframe systems. Let’s find out how we can use Mainframe certifications to leverage that.

In this interview you will find:

  • Do employers need people with Mainframe certifications?
  • Are there any benefits for you with the BCS MTP certifications?
  • How to prepare to the exams and how to pass them?
  • Are there any other Mainframe certifications?


IT Certification Master: Hello David. We are here today to talk about the BCS Mainframe Technology Professional program. Tell us something about you and your role with developing the BCS MTP certifications.

David Laird: Six years ago we were approached by a representative of Guide Share Europe (GSE) with a request to participate in a working group with the objective of providing Certification for the IBM Mainframe (platform z). On understanding the needs of the industry my company RSM Technology decided to develop the examinations and the software required to implement and control them. Governance was provided by the BCS which is the industry body for IT professionals and is the Chartered Engineering Institution for Information Technology.
My area of expertise is z/OS so I developed the level1 examinations over a six month period. I have been responsible for the content and format of the exams ever since.

ICM: Before we start talking about IT certifications.. I saw the statistics on the BCS MTP website. 95% of the Fortune 500 companies use IBM Mainframe systems. Isn’t the mainframe world a dead-end?

DL: Absolutely not! Although it is many years since the Mainframe was fashionable the fact is that it is irreplaceable as a large central server.

Apart from being used by the world’s largest companies it is growing faster than any other central server platform.

It provides unparalleled availability and scalability through its sophisticated Parallel Sysplex design as well as a relatively low overall cost for the high workloads that it is capable of.

ICM: Can you tell us something about the numbers? How many certifications do you have in the portfolio and how many people posses these certifications?

DL: Nearly all the large Mainframe sites in the UK have sent their employees on the MTP examinations. There are three levels of Certification. At level1 there is a certification for Technical Support & Operations and another for Application Developers. At level2 we have five specialist certifications for Operations, Data Storage, z/OS, Security (RACF) and CICS. There is also one for Senior Applications Developers. At level3 we have consultant level qualifications for Data Storage, z/OS and Security (RACF).

ICM: What is the value for employees who work with the IBM mainframe systems? Why do they need IT certifications?

Mainframe CertificationsDL: The main value of the qualification for individual is that it proves their expertise and thus allows them to better achieve their career advancement goals. It also allows them to differentiate themselves in the workplace, and demonstrate their drive and ambition to their employers.
Individuals have benefited by having the MTP as part of their objectives and thus receiving achievement bonuses. They have also been promoted based on obtaining these qualifications.
Companies competing for contracts have also distinguished themselves from the competition by having certified mainframe personnel.

ICM: Do employers look for the people with Mainframe Technology Professional certifications?

DL: Since the MTP is supported by so many large companies we have to assume that it would make the difference when hiring new staff.

ICM: Can we prepare for the BCS MTP certifications without an access to mainframe systems in a working environment? Can we find some kind of trainings, free tutorials, (fingers crossed) emulators?

DL: The BCS MTP is designed to prove an individual’s ability to do the job. It is not meant to be a purely academic qualification. The main prerequisite is experience. It is possible to take the level1 examinations based on courses provided in the UK by IBM and RSM, but a combination of formal training and experience is ideal.

There is a free test on the BCS MTP website (Mainframe Foundation Test –MFT) that will give the potential candidate a chance to test themselves before committing to the level1 exam.

ICM: Tell us something about exams. How the exams look like for each level? Where can we pass them and how much the exams cost?

DL: Each exam comprises some mandatory modules and in some cases optional ones. Extra credits are given for the optional modules. A day must be set aside for each exam. The level1 examinations have more options than the level2 and level3 specialist examinations. The questions are of two types. Type1 requires multiple choice answers where one or more answer may be selected. Type2 questions require answer boxes to be filled in. This could be anything from a line of Cobol code to a TSO command. Where appropriate, extensive use is made of panel snapshots to make the exams as realistic as possible.

The exams can run on-site for a single company or in the UK the examination centre is in High Wycombe. In the UK an exam costs £300.

ICM: Do we need to renew these certifications? How long they valid?

DL: There is no official time limit. However, since the qualification proves the ability to do a job the qualification would probably be worth more if it were renewed every five years or so. An individual may also move between disciplines and can then take a level 2 or level3 exam that covers that new area.

ICM: Do you have any plans to add new certifications in 2012 or to refresh the certification system?

DL: We constantly review the content of the exams in the light of new innovation in the industry. As far as new examinations are concerned, we try to listen to our customers and if there is a need we will respond.
In 2011 we developed a new form of questions making the exams as realistic as possible. This technique was implemented extensively in the Application Developers examinations, allowing delegates to code real Cobol statements. In 2012 we will continue to evolve the examination technology in order to make the examination experience as good as it can be.
Also in 2012 we will be assessing the need for expanding the MTP to encompass Database technology such as DB2 and IMS.

ICM: What other IT certifications are a good addition to the BCS MTP certifications? Which certifications can give additional value for employees?

DL: There are no real alternatives or additions to the BCS MTP. That is why it was developed.

ICM: What do you think about the certifications world? The number of certifications available on the market is growing? Is it a good direction?

DL: As long as the certifications actually measure the practical ability to carry out a role and is not just another academic qualification. There is nothing worse than an employer placing their trust in someone based on a qualification only to find that the individual cannot do the job. This only devalues all certifications.

[This is part of the Interviews with Vendors Series]

What Do You Think? Have you ever work with Mainframe systems? Do you know someone with Mainframe certifications?