Apprenticeship: the perfect gateway to water industry careers
This year, the Saur Group opens a new Water Treatment Technician apprenticeship training centre at Nîmes in the Gard region of France. HR Development & Training Director Pascal Brindejonc takes the opportunity to look back on the Group’s apprenticeship policy.
The Saur Group introduced its first CFA water industry apprenticeship training centres in 2008. So what is different about the new Nîmes CFA?
Pascal Brindejonc: This CFA offers the Water Treatment Technician training course, which leads to a professional qualification certified by the French Ministry for Labour, Employment, Vocational Training and Employee Relations. Twenty school-leaver apprentices will be welcomed this September into a facility that reflects the changing nature of water industry careers. Technical skills that have long been handed down from one generation to the next are now having to come to terms with new technologies that are transforming operating methods. In addition to the necessary skills in hydraulics, electromechanical engineering and control systems, apprenticeships must now embrace other areas of expertise, including digitisation and digitalisation, which are permeating and transforming the ways in which this job is done.
How does this training work operationally?
P.B.: This course combines theory lessons with hands-on field apprenticeship experience on the basis of a work/study cycle that alternates two weeks in the training centre with two weeks in the field. It prepares trainees for careers as plant managers, supply network managers and instrumentation managers. The apprentices will be recruited mainly from those regions covered by this training centre. One of the main goals is to retain those students we have trained in our own methods, resources and corporate culture within our operations structure, and offer young people from our partner local authorities the opportunity to work in their home region.
How can the image of apprenticeship be improved?
P.B.: Let’s take the example of Germany. Our European neighbours train three times more apprentices than we do here in France, and the rate of youth unemployment there is three times lower. In France, apprenticeship needs to become a route to excellence that is valued by families and companies. Our potential is exactly the same as it is on the other side of the Rhine, but there are still a number of barriers, including the obsession with degrees, the inextricable complexity of funding processes and recognition of the resulting qualification, to say nothing of the accompanying image of academic failure that still persists. Currently, more than 400,000 apprenticeship contracts are signed every year, and 79% of apprentices find jobs at the end of their training! Those figures rather prove the point.
What message would you send to young people who have passed their school leaving qualification and are wondering about this particular route to employment?
P.B.: The Saur Group is absolutely convinced about the effectiveness and relevance of this type of training. We employ around 240 work/study trainees aged between 18 and 40, who are studying for a range of qualifications from the CAP vocational certificate to engineering degrees. We have a great deal of experience in apprenticeship, having introduced this policy in 2008 at our Maurepas facility near Paris, with a very high success rate and natural employment opportunities in our operational locations. We believe that apprenticeship offers an excellent entrance to the world of work, as well as exciting career opportunities within the company.
The Water Treatment Technician apprenticeship prepares trainees for careers as:
plant managers, supply network managers and instrumentation managers.
We are here to introduce you to these careers, the local training opportunities, the eligibility criteria and the course structure.