First, the good news: In the second quarter of 2019, VC investment in Europe hit a new high – €9.3bn, up from €5.8bn in the second quarter of the previous year. Meanwhile, 14 Europe-based startups reached unicorn status in 2018. The problem – from the perspective of these booming startups and scaleups – is where to find qualified candidates to fill all the jobs opening up?

It’s not about staffing tech positions, per se. Europe has a fairly stable supply of software developers and engineers. Harder to find are the senior-level people with experience in marketing or sales who are capable of taking a company or organization to the next level.

The European Union has adopted policies to make it easier for highly skilled workers to move between EU countries. What more is required to create an environment favorable for attracting and/or keeping tech talent in Europe? We addressed this burning issue by convening a panel of experts at the fourth edition of Viva Technology last May. The panel came up with four key strategies for filling Europe’s talent gap:
1. Bring in foreign talent
2. Upskill Europeans who may not currently possess the skills but who have the potential
3. Educate the next generation to choose technology as a career path
4. Increase workplace diversity

Kat Borlongan, director of the French government’s French Tech mission, underscored the urgency of the problem. The shortage of tech talent is “the biggest bottleneck for growth right now, way ahead of funding or any other issue” she said. She went on to discuss the French government’s measures to make it easier to hire foreign tech talent, starting with “the French tech visa, one of the most powerful visas in the world for one very special reason: it has no conditions, other than that the start-up must be hiring. It's essentially immigration policy that has been designed not to filter but to empower startups to allow them to headhunt.”

The Manpower Group has had considerable success with their Tech Academy, which offers hands-on labs and classroom training to upskill and reskill homegrown labor in Europe. “What it takes is understanding adjacencies in skill sets” explained Mara Swan, Manpower Group’s Executive Vice-President of Global Strategy and Talent. “We need to find basic adjacent skill sets and use assessment to see where the gaps are and then develop them.”

Then there’s the subject of education. How can universities prepare students to enter a constantly evolving job market? “Most of the time universities are not ready for this big challenge” explained Davide Dattoli, CEO of Italy-based recruiter Talent Garden. “Setting up new courses can be very slow and technology changes very fast. So a new type of education is fundamental.”

Supporting workplace diversity offers another way to address Europe’s chronic talent shortage. More diversity means accessing the huge pool of talent not being tapped or being underutilized, often because of restrictive social or cultural barriers. “Talent can come from all sorts of places” Kat Borlongan said. “The barriers can be because of someone’s neighborhood, or lack of funding or network or training. In France we are actively scouting all across the country in 13 different cities for 200 potential young entrepreneurs. We pair them with a successful entrepreneur. It's a nationwide experiment.”

To learn more, watch the VivaTech 2019 talk: Attracting and Keeping Europe’s Tech Talent.

Article by Randall Koral

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