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Journey of a French cleaning apprentice29th of October 2012
French reporter Christian Bouzols follows a cleaning student's progress.
For this young man who’s passionate about body building, life hasn’t always been easy. But perhaps that’s what’s given him the steely determination to succeed. At the end of his teens, when life choices had to be made, Romain opted for an apprenticeship in the cleaning sector and enrolled at the Centre de Formation des Apprentis (CFA), or Vocational training centre, in Tours.
The time is 8.30 am and the French class is just about to begin for the 15 students. They’re in their second year of studies at the CFA to obtain their Professional Baccalaureate in cleaning sciences. They’re between 17 and 22 years old.
"To be honest, I’m rather fed up with studying", says Romain, "I’ve been here for five years and I can’t wait to finish. I’ve been living alone for a long time now. Nobody is there to help me. I’ve got my flat, rent to pay, insurance charges, bills..." Romain’s uncle had a cleaning business, and it was natural for him to engage in this sector, which moreover gives decent wages to its apprentices, at about 1100 euros a month.
"When you’re 17 you’re a bit bashful about telling your mates that you’re into cleaning. But I’m happy. I learn quickly and we never have to repeat the same things.”
The students talk a lot about cleaning contractors and are already aware of the benefits that some of the can provide. "There are good company bosses, then there are those you’d better steer clear of even though they recruit often." Romain eventually left his uncle at Orleans and found a new cleaning company, Axxome, at Tours, in order to continue his apprenticeship. He loves the company and showers praise on his boss, whom he respects enormously. "He really takes care of me. Sometimes, he’s quite hard. He tells you what to do just once, never twice. After that, you’re on your own! He’s also had to struggle hard in life and I respect people who have strong experience of the field."
Its manager, François Bruneau, is very much involved with the French cleaning federation. His business has 95 employees including three apprentices and a number of workers under professional training contracts. Training policy has an important place in the company. Each employee is sent on a training course every two years.
He recruited Romain for his apprenticeship on the following basis: "Romain is always on time. He’s serious, he’s a good worker and he’s presentable. He’s not one of those youths who sends you a text message on the first morning to tell you they won’t be coming to work!" All the apprentices in the company have tried other trades. Romain spent some time in a bakery but didn’t like it.
Romain has now completed his studies at the CFA. François Bruneau has offered him a permanent employment even before he had finished at the centre. Aware that his boss had the personality profile of a manager, Romain took the trouble to read a book about management and the correct attitude to have during a job interview. "For example, you shouldn’t cross your arms when someone is talking to you because it means that you’re refusing to listen to him or that you’re protecting yourself."
He has now signed his first permanent employment contract, having concluded his job interview with flying colours. He even succeeded in negotiating his wages and is very proud of it. "I’ve got many projects in mind and I’ll need money to achieve them. Maybe I’ll create my own cleaning company one day…”