The mainframe is still a core part of the enterprise infrastructure, but UK companies are struggling with a shortfall in skills to run and manage it.

So says a survey, entitled The Mainframe: Surviving and Thriving in a Turbulent World, which was commissioned by CA. 83 percent of UK respondents are worried about the lack of mainframe skills in their company, compared to around 66 percent for the rest of Europe, as staff retire or leave the company.

Companies are trying to counter this shortfall with training programmes; with 43 percent of UK respondents saying they were focusing on mainframe skills training, compared with 33 percent of European counterparts.

Another tactic is to buy-in the necessary skills, with 25 percent of organisations outsourcing certain activities. Meanwhile, 35 percent think that that a web-orientated graphical user interface (GUI) would enable less-experienced IT staff to narrow the skills gap.

But why are mainframe skills declining?

"The answer is combination of things," said James O'Malley, CA's mainframe sales VP for the UK and Ireland. "The mainframe being around a long time now with a lot of people working on this platform for 30 years plus. So retirement is an issue, but also a lot of people have been retrained and redeployed after the ‘mainframe is dying myth' of ten years ago."

Indeed, the survey found that mainframes still handle 55 percent of companies' data; this rises to 59 percent for companies with more than 3,000 staff; and rises again to 64 percent for organisations where the mainframe is connected with distributed, server-based computing systems.