Without always attracting the attention it should have done, France has lately become an IT powerhouse. This year, for example, it came fourth place, globally, for IOS development jobs and fifth for Android. Meanwhile at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this year, French companies were the third most numerous, and, among these, two thirds were start-ups. The tech sector in France continues to grow healthily and prospects for jobs have never been better with rising salaries and minimum unemployment levels. This success is underpinned by an extensive national R&D base and a truly first-class education system.
Tech skill sets are evolving
The ICT sector is not only growing but evolving. Both candidates and employers are changing what they look for and a shortage of some key skills is placing a premium on candidates with the right experience and background.
Employers are searching for a new type of candidate, one with ‘people’ as well as technical skills. According to Sebastien Franck, director of Computer Futures in France, “Employers are increasingly looking for, even demanding, candidates with ‘soft skills’, especially the ability to communicate effectively, in addition to an established technical track record.” Even in freelance postings, successful placements will sometimes be asked to take on client-facing projects or manage junior team members.
An increase in flexible working opportunities
Indeed, freelance contracts are now increasingly common. Employers value the flexibility as technologies and tasks change and, with little risk of unemployment, those with the right skills can pick or choose assignments that suit them or offer avenues for personal development. Freelance work also allows more choice of location. The Ile de France (around Paris) remains France’s main ICT hub but there are other areas like the Lyons-Grenoble axis and even clusters around Niort and Toulouse with specialisms in health insurance and aviation technology respectively. Postings in these regional hubs offer slightly reduced salaries but compensations of lower living costs and higher quality of life.
Start-ups are thriving
Start-ups are also benefiting from the confidence engendered by a positive business environment. Where once prospective partners and employees might have been averse to the risks of a project failing; with little chance this will now have much impact on a career, start-ups are thriving. The Government and larger companies are also offering support in the form of incubators and access to knowledge networks. Computer Futures now place roughly 20 per cent of their candidates with start-ups, 60 per cent with SMEs and the remainder with large employers of above five thousand staff.
Within many larger companies the move to digitalisation and e-commerce even among more traditional industries like pharmaceuticals, insurance and retail is creating a sustained and growing need for software and mobile systems expertise, in particular. An additional source of growth is associated with the arrival of foreign offshoot companies wanting to set up in Europe.
Cybersecurity and Java skills are in high demand
Currently, demand is highest for Java and Cybersecurity skills, embedded system integration as well as for advanced data analytics. In the last of these, openings increasingly exist, even for those with limited French skills, as demand is so high. While most companies, understandably, still insist on excellent standards of written and spoken French, some smaller companies and those with foreign parent companies are becoming more flexible in this regard. US companies are now typically looking for bi-lingual. There is also a growing sense that for the future, tech employees are going to need to master English in order to provide the best chances for corporate growth beyond ‘the hexagon’.
Another recent development is the growth in demand for quality assurance positions. With the intervals between software edition issues shrinking, those with the necessary skills to ensure the final versions still meet customer expectations are much sought after.
Industry knowledge is vital when recruiting top talent
In this, as with other changes in the industry, very specific knowledge is needed to ensure a good match between candidate and post. Computer Futures in France has, adds Sebastien Franck, “evolved specialised services by sector and an extensive series of networks to help find even those with the most sought-after skills. Each of our consultants speaks to at least 1500 candidates a year, which gives us a clear picture of where the markets are today and where they are headed tomorrow”.