the banking sector lacks cobol specialists

Who knows the cobol? Fewer and fewer computer scientists, apparently… The cobolist is an endangered species: developers mastering this computer code are gradually retiring. However, behind a cash withdrawal from an ATM, a plane flight reservation, a claim declaration or the printing of a receipt in supermarkets, a program written in cobol runs continuously.

To ensure the maintenance of software, banks and insurance companies compete for the services of coders still able to interpret the precious language. “If you have one under the elbow who is looking for work, let us know! »slips, on condition of anonymity, an IT executive from a large French bank, without it being possible to distinguish whether it is a joke or a real job offer.

Created in 1959, the COmmon Business Oriented Language was invented to simplify interconnectivity between computers from multiple computer manufacturers. Adopted by the Pentagon, this language spread little by little in American companies, before conquering European banks and insurance companies in the 1960s, reured by its reliability.

rotary phone

Sixty-four years later, a quick look at the recruitment sites reveals a real hunt for the cobol developer. The Postal Bank, the Covéa group, bringing together in particular the MAAF, MMA and GMF brands, or even the BPCE flood the Web with job offers mentioning from the title the essential mastery of the famous code. “I continue to receive job offers”says Thierry Longer, cobol developer retired two years ago.

Like thousands of computer scientists in the 20th century, this baby boomer was trained in this language during his studies. “It was the only code we were taught since it was the only one used”, he recalls. For the past fifteen years, no French university has yet taught it to its students. “But we teach them to learn, we justify at the secretariat of a Parisian IUT. It is a simple code to use. »

Simple in appearance, but complex to fully master. Especially since talking about cobol to a young developer is like showing a rotary phone to a teenager addicted to his smartphone. At best, he will smile; more often than not, he will look at you with wide, amazed eyes.

New generations of coders prefer to turn to more popular languages ​​such as JavaScript or Python. “Cobol is not sexy”, admits Cyril Coquilleau, cobol trainer for six years. Red and green letters on a black background, “it feels like coding on Minitel”, he adds. Outdated, the language is renowned by young developers in Completely Obsolete Business Oriented Language (“Completely obsolete business-oriented language”).

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