Time to make French industry young again, suggests French education official


Gabriel Attal, the secretary of state at France’s ministry of education, expounds on two of his favourite talking points: developing the relationship between schools and SMEs and facilitating patronage. An interview with Gabriel Attal by EURACTIV France’s media partner La Tribune.

Gabriel Attal is the state secretary at the ministry of education.

What is the purpose of the “territorial volunteering in companies”(VTE) initiative that you have just launched?

Territorial volunteering in companies is aimed at young graduates of technical (BTS), engineering and business schools. It offers them the opportunity to start their professional life within a small and medium enterprise (SME) or a mid-cap company located in a pilot “industry territory”. This opportunity can be coupled with studies or carried out via a one-year fixed-term contract. As a first step, 12 of the 124 territories will test this new experience.

This initiative will foster real responsibilities of assistant business leaders for young people and support the development of companies and industrial basins that are often shunned by graduates. From September, a first promotion of 100 to 200 young people from a dozen institutions including very prestigious ones such as EM Lyon, ESCP Europe or Ensam, will be launched. We aim to have a whopping 2,000 VTE placements every year.

French SMEs continue to have difficulties recruiting. How can we overcome this obstacle to lower the unemployment rate?

The industry, especially in SMEs and very small businesses, suffers from a lack of attractiveness, especially because of prevailing misconceptions. I met young students in Tours who were surprised by how modern and technical these industry trades actually are.

At the national level, operations such as Industry Week are intended to break down these prejudices, but there is clearly still a long way to go. At the local level, since the 2018 Professional Futures Act (loi Avenir professionel), regions have also played a central role in providing information and outreach to young people with regard to the profiles sought by industries in the territories.

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On a more general level of civic education, what about universal national service proposed by Macron?

The universal national service, promised by Emmanuel Macron during his campaign, will be launched on 16 June. It responds to an observation that speaks for itself: youth is lacking a moment of diversity, of social and territorial cohesion around the values of the French Republic.

This moment must also make it possible to retrieve obstacles from any engagement opportunities. A first pilot phase will prefigure the future device and will increase every year. By 2026, the universal national service will apply to all young people after the age of 14-15. We are working on more proactive scenarios, within five years for example. But, whatever the timetable, the universal national service is an essential social issue for France.

At what stage is your proposal to remove the ‘hereditary reserve’ to revive patronage?

MPs Naïma Moutchou of Macron’s party La Republique en Marche (LREM) and Sarah El Haïry of the centrist party Democratic Movement (MoDem) lead a parliamentary mission on this issue and will report on it this summer. Under current French law, we are not allowed to give most of our fortune to a foundation or an association because of the ‘hereditary reserve,’ which allows some to automatically inherit.

The current system of succession, inherited from Roman law and enshrined in the French Civil Code, is no longer adapted to the current economy that allows the creation of fortunes in a single generation.

Many of the beneficiaries wish to be able to bequeath a substantial part of their property to works or causes without hindrance. Sarah El Haïry and Naïma Moutchou are set out to rethink new inheritance methods that are more favourable to developing philanthropy.

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