Companies are struggling to fill the skills shortage in mainframe development as existing staff retire and IT students are put off from the unattractive development environment, according to research.

Market research firm Vanson Bourne questioned 520 CIOs internationally about mainframe use in their enterprises, including 100 in the UK. The research, on behalf of Compuware, found that "a stagnant mainframe development environment impacts developer productivity" and in turn "reduces IT efficiency".

More than half (56 percent) of respondents said that mainframe developers - continually challenged to do more with less in a rapidly evolving IT environment - were struggling to meet the changing needs of the business. At the same time, 69 percent believed that a lack of change in the mainframe environment is turning IT graduates off from mainframe development.

Businesses are supporting new technology like mobility and cloud computing at a record pace, forcing mainframe teams to contend with the added workload of quickly and successfully integrating new applications with legacy mainframe applications.

Kris Manery, senior vice president and general manager of mainframe solutions at Compuware, said: "This rise in mainframe development coupled with a lack of new developers puts teams at risk of becoming less effective in supporting the applications that are critical to today's world economy."

The survey also showed that 46 percent of CIOs had no plans in place to address mainframe developer shortages. In addition, high acquisition costs (60 percent), complex integration (54 percent) and high training and implementation costs (45 percent) are preventing businesses from modernising their mainframe environment.

Computerworld recently questioned IT leaders about the lack of certain IT skills in the jobs market, and mainframe ones figured.