French industry woos young talent

French President Emmanuel Macron has vowed to return the country to ‘full employment’ by 2025. (Reuters)
Updated 11 August 2019

French industry woos young talent

  • Recruitment specialists target holidaymakers in coastal resorts to drum up interest in factory work

DEAUVILLE: A few steps from the sea in the Normandy resort of Deauville, a group of curious holidaymakers in flip-flops and beach garb pepper a technician with questions as he extols the capabilities of a cutting-edge 3D modelling machine.
Outside the makeshift lab, disco music blares while people wait to try out virtual reality headsets allowing them to operate robots whizzing around a gleaming production line.
Frustrated in their attempts to attract young workers, French industrial firms have taken their pitches straight to the summer crowds with a roadshow aimed at drumming up an interest in factory work.
Since mid-July the French Fab Tour has traveled along the Mediterranean and Atlantic coasts, hoping to convince young people that state-of-the-art sites offering solid pay and prospects have replaced the dreary assembly lines of the past.
Magali Kueny, a recruitment specialist on vacation from the eastern French city of Mulhouse who was watching the 3D molding display with her young daughter, knows firsthand the need to inject a bit of glamor into an industry’s image.
“There are very few qualified candidates,” she said. “Sometimes we’ll have just one candidate for four or five posts.”
The tour, which will have visited 18 seaside resorts when it wraps up on Wednesday, mixes work and play.
Amid the basketball hoops and programmable remote-controlled toy cars is a LinkedIn stand, where people get prints of would-be profile pictures. There’s also an escape game and the day ends with a free outdoor concert featuring several bands and DJs.
“Encouraging people means reaching out, by going straight to families and young people, because a career decision is something you make within the family,” said Patrice Begay of BPI France, the state-run investment bank that organized the tour.
Around 50,000 industry jobs, from aviation and rail companies to defense and IT contractors, are going unfilled this year, Begay said, despite a French jobless rate that has remained stubbornly high, standing at 8.7 percent in the first quarter.

We have plenty of industry in Normandy. Aeronautics, nuclear, automobile, and luxury groups like Hermes and Louis Vuitton all produce in Normandy, and often it’s difficult to hire.

Philippe Augier, Deauville Mayor

Tackling this imbalance is a key part of President Emmanuel Macron’s pledge to make France more competitive and lower the chronic unemployment, especially among young people.
Macron has vowed to return the country to “full employment” by 2025 — a rate most economists would peg at around 4.5 percent — in part by overhauling professional training and encouraging the creation of more apprenticeships.
The goal has become even more urgent in the wake of the “yellow vest” protests, which partly reflected a sense of abandonment in areas where traditional industries have been hollowed out.
“We have plenty of industry in Normandy. Aeronautics, nuclear, automobile, and luxury groups like Hermes and Louis Vuitton all produce in Normandy, and often it’s difficult to hire,” Deauville Mayor Philippe Augier said.“Young people aren’t aware of it, they don’t know enough about it,” he said.
Economists argue that French schools must also better promote the so-called “industry 4.0” jobs at automated factories, where workers are more likely to hammer on keyboards than on rivets.
But that also means tackling the stigma attached to apprenticeships, which many still consider the domain of failed students destined for a life of manual labor — not the dream most parents harbor in a country of guaranteed free university access.
Just seven percent of French youths aged 16 to 25 seek apprenticeships, compared with 15 percent in Germany, which boasts a broad and dynamic manufacturing base.
“Before people would say, if you don’t succeed in school, you’ll get sent to the factory,” Begay admitted.
The upbeat message appeared to be getting through in Deauville.
Severine, a school worker was visiting with her young son, an airplane fan. “He found himself with an engineer who talked about technologies, careers, the future, and obviously it had quite an impact,” she said.
To help companies fill jobs, Macron’s government has given local industry federations more say in the running of the country’s nearly 1,000 apprentice training centers and the state is subsiding the salaries of youths who get taken on.
It is also offering to help recruits pay for driving lessons, no small thing in a country where securing a license — a prerequisite for many jobs outside of big cities — can easily exceed €1,000 ($1,120).
The measures led to a 7.7 percent rise in apprenticeships last year, Labor Ministry figures show, and a 12.6 percent year-on-year jump for the first two months of this year.
Yet the challenge remains daunting: placement agency Adecco said in June that French firms overall have 3.5 million posts to fill this year, but half expect to struggle to find suitable candidates.
So if touting their attractiveness means putting on an evening of games and concerts at the beach, so be it.
“We’re simply showing that industry is recruiting, and that industry is dynamic,” Begay said.


Saudi energy giant to invest $3bn in Bangladesh’s power sector

Updated 22 October 2019

Saudi energy giant to invest $3bn in Bangladesh’s power sector

  • Experts say deal will usher in more economic and development opportunities for the country

DHAKA: Saudi Arabia’s energy giant, ACWA power, will set up an LNG-based 3,600 MW plant in Bangladesh after an agreement was signed in Dhaka on Thursday.

The MoU was signed by ACWA Chairman Mohammed Abunayyan and officials from the Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDB), officials told Arab News on Monday.

According to the agreement, ACWA will invest $3 billion in Bangladesh’s energy development sector, of which $2.5 billion will be used to build the power plant while the rest will be spent on an LNG terminal to facilitate fuel supply to the plant. Under the deal, ACWA will also set up a 2 MW solar power plant.

In recent months, both countries have engaged in a series of discussions for investment opportunities in Bangladesh’s industry and energy sectors. 

During the Saudi-Bangladesh investment cooperation meeting in March this year, Dhaka proposed a $35 billion investment plan to a high-powered Saudi delegation led by Majed bin Abdullah Al-Qasabi, the Saudi commerce and investment minister, and Mohammed bin Mezyed Al-Tuwaijri, the Saudi economy and planning minister.

However, officials in Dhaka said that this was the first investment deal to be signed between the two countries.

“We have just inked the MoU for building the LNG-based power plant. Now, ACWA will conduct a feasibility study regarding the location of the plant, which is expected to be completed in the next six months,” Khaled Mahmood, chairman of BPDB, told Arab News.

He added that there are several locations in Moheshkhali, Chottogram and the Mongla port area for the proposed power plant.

“We need to find a suitable location where the drift of the river will be suitable for establishing the LNG plant and we need to also consider the suitability of establishing the transmission lines,” Mahmood said.

“It will be either a JV (Joint Venture) or an IPP (Independent Power Producer) mode of investment, which is yet to be determined. But, we are expecting that in next year the investment will start coming here,” Mahmood said.

BPDB expects to complete the set-up process of the power plant within 36 to 42 months.

“We are in close contact with ACWA and focusing on the successful completion of the project within the shortest possible time,” he said.

Abunayyan said that he was optimistic about the new investment deal.

“Bangladesh has been a model for the Muslim world in economic progress. This is our beginning, and our journey and our relationship will last for a long time,” Abunayyan told a gathering after the MoU signing ceremony.

Economists and experts in Bangladesh also welcomed the ACWA investment in the energy development sector.

“This sort of huge and long-term capital investment will create a lot of employment opportunities. On the other hand, it will facilitate other trade negotiations with the Middle Eastern countries, too,” Dr. Nazneen Ahmed, senior research fellow at the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS), told Arab News.

She added that Bangladesh needs to weigh the pros and cons before finalizing such contracts so that the country can earn the “maximum benefits” from the investment.

“It will also expedite other big investments in Bangladesh from different countries,” she said.

Another energy economist, Dr. Asadujjaman, said that Bangladesh needs to exercise caution while conducting the feasibility study for such a huge investment.

“We need to address the environmental aspects, opportunity costs and other economic perspectives while working with this type of big investment. Considering the present situation, the country also needs to focus on producing more solar energy,” Dr. Asadujjaman told Arab News.