The 110 French army recruitment offices are busier than they have been for a very long time. Ever since the terrorist attacks in Paris on 13th November there are some 1,400 people aged between 17½ to 29 who cross the threshold of the recruitment offices every day compared to 400 after the January terrorist attack on the offices of the Charlie Hebdo satirical weekly. Last year, prior to the terrorist attacks, 100 to 150 enquiries were made daily.
The recruitment office spokeswoman told FOB that the young people making enquiries “are not doing so in a spirit of revenge but rather because they want to know what they can do to help.” She added that following the Charlie Hebo attacks, the army had decided to introduce a shorter-term contract than the minimum three-year one available at the time “because we wanted to attract more youngsters to the army and didn’t want them to be frightened away by a contract that was too long.”
Thus, in June 2015 the army introduced a two-year contract and she said this is also helping recruitment because many of those making enquiries feel that they can give two years of their lives to the army without it hindering their future professional life.
She could not say how many of the enquiries are made by young women but did point out that between 10-12% of army personnel are women “which makes us the European army with the highest proportion of females.”
She added that of the 110 recruitment offices, six are in France’s overseas regions and that “the interest generated there is the same as on mainland France.”
However, it’s not because somebody has taken the plunge and talked to a recruitment officer that s/he will become a soldier. Of the expected 160,000 enquiries the army expects to register by the end of this year, only 35,000 will be followed up and 15,000 eventually recruited, up from 10,000 last year.
The recruitment process lasts four months during which the candidate undergoes a wide variety of tests which range from the physical to the psychological. The army is interested in talking to all youngsters ranging from those who don’t hold their baccalaureate school-leaver’s exam to those who hold university doctorates.
For many the first contact is made via the army’s very clear website which even tells you how many positions are currently available in each job category. Today, for example, there are 51 positions open for logistics agents, 21 in the dining and leisure sector, three stable assistant jobs, five sports instructors, 10 administrators and so on. Most basic questions are answered on the website and an interactive map tells you which is the nearest army recruitment centre. A click of a button and a first meeting is organised.
Those who don’t make it into the regular army ranks and are aged between 17 to 35 might be able to join the reserve which recruits 2,500 operational reservists a year. In return for financial compensation ranging between €59 to €79 for each day served, they will have to dedicate about 20 days a year undertaking operational missions just like a regular soldier. Every reservist is legally entitled to spend five working days a year in the army. Any further days given are at the discretion of the employer.