We are used to hearing about this as an Italian problem. But even in France, there are people who cannot find skilled workers. This is the case of JM Weston, which is unable to replace staff who are retiring. This is happening at the shoe factory in Limoges, Haute-Vienne, where the company employs 140 people. But the problem is not only in training. Some people try to get to work, but then give up because of the excessive precision required. And there are those who do not accept the basic salary.
In France as well
JM Weston is unable to find skilled workers too. The management explains to lemonde.fr that it is struggling with generational turnover. As a result, production at the Limoges site, which opened in 1989, risks coming to a halt. The plant employs 140 craftsmen. Each one has his or her own job, and many are responsible for a machine. The milling machine position has been vacant since spring. The lack of specialisation is the reason why it is impossible to recruit new workers on a permanent basis. But there are also other factors, such as the inability for some to keep up with the pace of production, or the refusal of employment when offered a basic wage.
“45% of the craftsmen have more than 20 years’ service,” explains Gaël Coeuret, the new director of manufacturing, to lemonde.fr. The average age in the company is 48. In 2020, 9 employees retired, and this year the number goes up to 12. Staff shortages are a problem, despite the fact that the company, owned by EPI group, has trained many of its employees in leather processing. Moreover, there is a lack of footwear specialists. Some positions require “months or even years of training,” Coeuret continues.
A mechanic must know how to “keep a straight line on a track”, but also master “rounding, parallels“, Micheline Mathé, head of the sewing workshop, tells lemonde.fr. “We’re not allowed to make mistakes’, because ‘in leather, a hole is a hole, unlike in textiles, where you can undo a seam and redo it’, notes Deborah Ballage, who has been employed for almost five years. During the business immersion weeks offered by Pôle emploi, only “two out of ten candidates” pass the skills tests, notes Ms Mathé. And there is a lack of candidates.