“Hello, can you introduce yourself?”
“I am Sonia Renault, and I am in charge of the CFA. I’ve been working at Vatel Bordeaux for about 6 years as Practical Training Manager and I have progressed to CFA Manager since it opened.”
Pernelle – “I am Pernelle, and I joined Sonia’s team as the CFA’s Administrative Assistant about 1 and a half months ago. I have always worked in the hotel and catering sector, mainly catering.”
Sonia – “The CFA (Apprentice Training Center) opened in October 2022 in Vatel Bordeaux, offering the first MBA apprenticeship. The course now has 53 apprentices, and at the start of the 2023 academic year we will be opening a bachelor’s class and two new MBA classes, with a total of 160 apprentices.”
“What about companies”
Sonia – “Apprentices have to work in the hotel and catering sector, but the companies are quite varied. The vast majority are not based in Bordeaux. Around 40% of our apprentices work in Bordeaux and the rest either in Paris or in the regions. About companies, they are of all types: small structures, large one, groups or family businesses.”
“What are the CFA’s missions?”
Sonia – “The CFA’s role is to support apprentices from A to Z, from the moment they enrol in our CFA until they graduate. This means providing real support when apprentices are in class, with everything to do with managing absences and attendance, as well as providing support when apprentices encounter problems in the workplace. We also have to visit the companies where our apprentices are working, at least once a year, to avoid any problems and drop-outs during the course.
Our tasks include liaising with the OPCOs, the organisations that help companies to finance tuition fees. We take care of invoicing and evaluate apprentices when they are in class or in the company.
Our first task when apprentices arrive at our CFA is to help them find their establishments. We provide them with a list of opportunities, from which unsolicited applications or applications via the CFA will follow, so that the apprentices can find a company that matches their expectations, but also so that the companies can find an apprentice that matched theirs.”
“Given that the CFA is new, what are the benefits for you and the students?”
Sonia – “The benefits for Vatel Bordeaux are the diversification of the type of apprentices who come to the CFA. As the training fees are paid not by the student or their family but by the company, this has broadened the type of apprentice who can enroll in our CFA, delivering a diploma that they might not have been able to obtain because of the financial burden. The CFA also enables companies to raise their profile and create a link between the school and companies. We’re going to establish partnerships and work with certain companies rather than others, because we’ve been talking to them for several years. As the courses are longer, this helps to create real links between the companies and our school.”
“What does it bring you in a human level?”
Sonia – “I’d say that what has driven me most since I started at Vatel Bordeaux is the professional and trusting relationship with the companies and learners. The tasks are a little different from my last job, but the issues remain much the same. This exchange, building an apprentice’s CV and the start of their career, is really what gives me the most personal and professional satisfaction. It is this trio of school, apprentice and company that is particularly interesting. Each case is different and finding solutions to all the problems is very rewarding and interesting.”
Pernelle – “Coming from the hotel and catering sector, what I also really enjoy is seeing the new generation coming into this profession, which has been facing a lot of difficulties on all sides in recent years. Their motivation is very interesting to discover and follow, as is their vision of things and everything they can bring to the profession.”
“Have you had any problems since the start of the CFA?”
Sonia – “One of the biggest problems we have encountered since we opened is that the assignments do not match up with what was promised at the interview and communicated to the CFA. The reason for this is the shortage of staff in the sector: apprentices are hired in positions of responsibility, and they end up doing only operational work when this is neither planned nor in line with their course of study.
We also help companies to recruit by advertising their vacancies. Getting apprentices to understand that we are in a sector in difficulty and that this is part of the job, is not easy: this interplay is one of our biggest problems and gives rise to many misunderstanding within the CFA – company – apprentice trio.”
“What does this mean for apprentices?”
Sonia – “Vatel Bordeaux enables a future student or apprentice to acquire both theorical and practical knowledge. This is also the case in the initial part of the course, with practical work and work placements. However, the work placements provide a real link between what they learn in the classroom and what they see in the workplace, with real hands-on experience. This experience is very much in demand on initial job offers, where companies are looking for a junior with experience: this is precisely what apprenticeship provides, with 2 years’ experience for MBAs and 3 years for bachelor’s degrees. It is a real advantage for their careers, giving them real managerial skills or the ability to become a future director in this sector.”
“Pernelle, what is the difference between your old job and this one, what do you prefer?”
Pernelle – “I am more hands-on, and over time I have had more and more administrative responsibilities as my career has developed. This has given me a certain amount of stability, both in terms of my schedule and my private life, so that I am able to plan my tasks and my day-to-day life. I have been able to maintain the link with the hotel and restaurant industry, combine this administrative side with supporting these future recruits in their future careers and gain a certain personal comfort that I did not have before. Finally, the Vatel Bordeaux school is extremely renowned, and it is very satisfying to be part of it.”
Sonia – “Pernelle’s arrival brings real expertise in the field, which is very important for the department. Thanks to her personal experience in the hotel and restaurant industry, Pernelle communicates very well and has a lot of credibility with apprentices. She brings her expertise to bear on the issues and is in a position to give them the best possible advice, whether or not she’s on their side, but she does so with what she’s experienced and what she has seen. It is a real asset to be able to bring her knowledge and expertise to the table – it is undeniably a big advantage for the CFA.”