EurWORK European Observatory of Working Life

Schneider Electric, France: Increasing the labour market participation of underrepresented groups – young people

About

Country: 
France
Organisation Size: 
Large
Sectors: 
Electrical
Category: 
increasing labour market participation of underrepresented groups

Schneider Electric, an international group, has promoted apprenticeship in France for several years. The company has recruited and trained more than 6,500 apprentices since 1993. The aims of the policy are to train apprentices for employment and to provide support and follow-up. The apprenticeship policy is one element of a wider approach, aimed at fostering the social inclusion of young people. This policy is fully recognised at national level by the French government.

Organisational background

Schneider Electric is the world's power and control specialist. Through its world-class brands, Merlin Gerin, Square D and Telemecanique, Schneider Electric anticipates and satisfies its customers’ requirements in the residential, building, industry and energy and infrastructure markets. With 112,000 employees and operations in 190 countries, Schneider Electric generated sales of €13.7 billion in 2006 through 13,000 distributor outlets. 46% of the workforce is located in Europe. In 2006, France has more than 20,000 employees.

Men represent 65% of the workforce and women 35%. The main French trade unions are represented within the company and social dialogue is an important issue. For instance, a significant agreement related to equal opportunities for men and women was concluded in 2004. Schneider Electric also includes a European Works Council, which explicitly aims at effectively representing all European employees. In addition, the company is fully involved in a socially responsible approach to both environmental and social matters. This orientation is implemented through numerous actions in France and worldwide. The Group is a signatory to the UN Global Compact and has drawn up socially responsible principles: ‘Our principles of responsibility’. Diversity in the workplace is an important issue for the company, which is also a signatory of the French Diversity Charter. Support for young people is also an important commitment of the company. Schneider Electric’s Foundation especially aims at facilitating the social integration of young people.

Description of the initiative

In France, Schneider Electric has implemented an ambitious apprenticeship policy since 1993. Thus, the company has extensive experience with these issues. Apprenticeship is clearly a means for the company to implement its social responsibility, while providing for its own needs. Schneider Electric aims at providing apprentices with not necessarily a job within the company but with real employability. Therefore, the company also participates in local economic development by answering local needs regarding workforce availability.

Apprenticeship is integrated into the company’s human resources policy as one way to meet the demographic challenges faced by the company. One of the company’s objectives is that 15% of the graduate apprentices should be recruited yearly. Apprenticeship is targeted at young people from 18 to 26 years old, regardless of their qualification level, and includes engineers and low-level qualified people. About 450 persons per year are accepted into apprenticeship. Apprenticeship within Schneider Electric involves more men than women (about 66 % are men, 34% are women). This gap is probably due to the fact that Schneider Electric has significant industrial activity: in 2006, 57% of the apprentices worked in the industrial sector of the company, 37% in the services sector and 6% in sales departments. Regarding apprenticeship, the company’s objectives can evolve over time. This year, the company is focused on the integration of minorities, low-qualified people and the disabled. Of the apprentices recruited, 100 are low-qualified people. Schneider Electrics publishes information on its apprenticeship offers, not only to the National Employment Public Service, but to all the company’s partners, including associations and other companies Schneider Electric works with. Young people also have the opportunity to send their applications directly to the company. The applications received are compared with the company’s needs. Once recruited, the apprentice is supported during and after the apprenticeship period. Each apprentice is supported by a mentor, chosen by local managers from the company’s workers. There is one mentor per one apprentice. Each mentor receives four days of general training including a training focused on specific categories of persons, such as disabled workers. The training is especially focused on ways to welcome and support apprentices during the process. To date, 2,500 mentors have been trained in the company. Each mentor has at least three years experience in a relevant trade. Mentors have the opportunity to assess the training they receive and the company can adapt the training to their concrete needs.

At the end of the apprenticeship contract, a follow-up with the apprentices is conducted. Two months before the end of the contract, apprentices are informed about the existence within the company of a specific service devoted to the support of former apprentices . Personal support is a process to help apprentices who are not hired by Schneider Electric to find employment elsewhere. About 20 companies, partners of Schneider Electrics, are involved in this process. There, former apprentices can be helped in their job search, for instance, through workshops focused on the techniques of job research. Apprentices also can attend meetings and interviews and benefit from personal coaching for one year after the end of their contract. Several forums also are organised by region with all the apprentices concerned, The forums include an internal national forum focused on low-qualified people and external regional forums (starting in 2006, the first forums are held at the end of the year). A survey is carried out by the company every six months in order to determine to status of former apprentices. As for the theoretical training provided to apprentices, Schneider Electric has built a partnership with the public body (‘Centre de formation des apprentis’) in charge of this task. This partnership is especially focused on the content of the courses provided.

The policy is implemented by the company’s sustainable development department. Apprenticeship is a national-level responsibility. Accordingly, seven company employees are assigned to study issues related to integration of apprentices into the labour market. Workers’ representatives are informed and consulted about the company’s apprenticeship policy in compliance with French regulations. Trades unions generally support the company’s policy. Negotiations related to apprenticeship have been started between the company and trade unions.

Analysis

Schneider Electric has recruited and trained more than 6,500 young people since 1993. 90% of the apprentices obtained a diploma in the field in which they were trained. Apprenticeship is considered as a first step to integrating into the labour market. In France, this policy is considered an example of an apprenticeship, based on support and follow up, both collective and individual, in order to provide apprentices with a lasting integration into the labour market. Key elements for success are: the quality of the mentors (who benefit from dedicated training), the significant involvement of the company’s top management (especially its chairman), the company’s culture (largely based on teamwork) and partnership with external participants (both private and public).

It is significant that Schneider Electric has been involved in educational issues for a long time. The company has its own school, founded in 1929. This is a private school, recognised by the public authorities, specifically focused on pupils with academic problems, which prepares students for technical diplomas. Some of the students can then be recruited as apprentices.

Another important element is that apprenticeship is included in a wider approach which aims at promoting diversity and social inclusion in all their dimensions. Apprenticeship is in fact an element of an overall policy aimed at supporting the social inclusion of young people.

Exemplary and contextual factors

Since 2004, the French government has implemented and supported several measures in order to improve apprenticeship. Schneider Electric is fully involved in the process and has formed, with the help of a private consulting firm, ‘Institut de l’Entreprise,’ a charter of apprenticeship addressed to large companies. This charter is planning several commitments and is supported by the French government. The French Minister of Labour has given Schneider Electric’s chairman of the current supervisory board, Henry Lachmann, the responsibility of promoting apprenticeship among companies.

Christophe Tessier, Université européenne du travail, Paris

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