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Mobility Work is putting maintenance careers as well as the sometimes atypical courses into the spotlights. For this episode, we exchanged with Erwan, who works as a maintenance technician in a market-leading French group specialized in the food service industry.

Erwan draws an honest picture of vocational education in France and explains that he initially wasn’t planning on making a career in the industrial maintenance field… Before realizing this very promising sector offered to the most motivated persons a wide range of opportunities!

Mobility Work: Can you please introduce yourself and tell us more about your background?

My name is Erwan and I have been working as a maintenance technician within a large group from the food sector for the last three years.

As for my academic background, I initially took a mechanical engineering baccalaureate but I quickly understood that it did not match my profile nor my ambitions. After graduating from high school, on the advice of one of my teachers, I turned to a Certificate for Advanced Technicians in industrial maintenance.

Industrial maintenance was eye-opening for me, I was immediately very interested in this field and quickly understood how versatile it is. After passing my Certificate for Advanced Technicians degree, I wasn’t really feeling ready to enter the working life yet and chose to study for a professional degree in maintenance services management (in apprenticeship), which I obtained about ten years ago. This training offered very interesting perspectives for the future.

After my studies, I had the opportunity to have many professional experiences, which allowed me to further diversify my profile. I carried out temporary assignments, integrated an ice cream factory, then another one specialized in the meat industry, before joining my current company as a maintenance technician.

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You initially chose the industrial maintenance field by default, what motivated you to continue along this path?

I quickly realized that the tasks were very varied, that the working days were never the same. Teams must work hard to think about how they could improve machines, to troubleshoot equipment as quickly as possible, to prevent breakdowns...

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We are actually under positive pressure each time we need to make a repair, which is exciting! We feel tense because we have no choice but to fix the machines as quickly as possible. In fact, it is a very complete sector that takes me through all the states and that keeps me busy all day long.

Did you notice a gap between learning in school and the working world afterward?

I would say that what we learn in school is useful but does not always prepare very well for the labor market, teaching is not sufficiently in line with the reality on the field. For instance, over a year of bachelor’s degree, no fewer than 56 subjects are studied. I obviously have acquired knowledge and benefited from an opening to the professional world, but I still have some reservations in this regard.

I consider that I have gained experience on my own since my only insights into the job market only consisted of two internships of a few weeks during my studies. I was feeling a bit lost and did not feel ready to enter the workforce, which is why I wanted to study for a bachelor’s degree and do an apprenticeship at the same time. I actually observed a fairly significant gap between theory and practice, and I considered that I did not have enough experience.

At the same time, however, we often hear that the industrial maintenance sector is struggling to hire, that recruiters are complaining about a shortage of applicants…

There is indeed a very strong need for maintenance technicians: I believe that recruiters are therefore very attentive and ready to trust people who may have less experience but who have a good mentality, who work hard and show logic… I think it is the personality that drives you forward in this profession.

I couldn’t really explain this shortage of candidates because the industry is actually doing great. Perhaps students are not enough oriented towards these fields… When I was still a student, I for instance often heard that this sector was aging. I preferred to think that it meant I could quickly find a job! Once you’re mature enough, you realize how much the industrial maintenance sector has to offer.

Vocational courses, factory work or the global maintenance industry, in general, may also suffer from a rather negative image. Students are not enough encouraged to turn to these professions.

What do you think of the tarnished reputation this sector seems to suffer from?

The industry itself is relatively sustainable. I, for example, consider myself lucky with the company I am working for because it invests and is seriously turning to maintenance 4.0.

From what I can see as a field worker, I came to the conclusion that companies must understand the importance of industrial maintenance and invest in new machines, new spare parts… It is a global strategy, which decision-makers must seize if they want to become always more competitive.

What advice would you give to those who would like to work in the industrial maintenance field?

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I would tell them that we need them! Industrial maintenance has the advantage of offering a wide range of career perspectives. The sector is looking for motivated people who are willing to invest and integrate into teams, and who can then easily evolve within the plant. If a person starts out as a maintenance technician, he or she can easily redirect to production, for example. It is an open environment that does not know the routine.

Thanks to Erwan for his testimony! To be alerted of our next article dedicated to maintenance jobs and training, follow us on our social media (LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter)!