By  on July 2, 2014

PARIS — LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton is putting its stamp on an initiative that casts a broad net for aspiring artisans in have-not neighborhoods, and trains them for a variety of luxury métiers, WWD has learned.

Starting in September, roughly 20 young people are to commence special two-year degree courses in jewelry or dressmaking that include paid work terms at LVMH brands and additional mentoring from the French luxury group’s in-house experts.

“It’s a question of making [young people] aware that these métiers exist,” Chantal Gaemperle, LVMH’s group executive vice president, human resources and synergies, said in an exclusive interview. “People don’t necessarily know about those jobs and what they can lead to.

“We also want to make sure that these métiers survive over the long term — that they have the right fuel,” she added. “It’s a field which is delivering jobs that are substantial and extremely valued in some of the most iconic brands in the world.”

LVMH has already partnered with two Paris schools for its nascent Institut des Métiers d’Excellence, or Institute for Métiers of Excellence, in English. They are the École de la Bijouterie-Joaillerie de Paris for jewelry and the Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne for a class specialized in soft, or “flou,” garments.

Successful applicants for the jewelry placements are to become apprentices at Chaumet or Louis Vuitton, while those studying “flou” are assured placements at Dior, Givenchy, Kenzo or Le Bon Marché, the Left Bank department store that shelters an alterations expert with more than 30 years of experience.

Gaemperle said LVMH plans to add degree programs for leather goods and tailoring later this year, and others specializing in visual merchandising and retail sales in 2015.

She stressed that the combination of theoretical education and practical work experience, plus coaching and mentoring, offers the best chance of turning out highly skilled artisans. For example, only one in five apprentices in high jewelry succeed in a profession that requires eight to 10 years of training to reach the highest levels.

The initiative comes against a backdrop of high youth unemployment in France, and dovetails with heightened interest in the rare suppliers and artisans that realize expensive leather goods, fashions and jewelry.

In 2011, LVMH introduced a biennial initiative called Journées Particulières in which it invites the public to visit its workshops across Europe, including Christian Dior’s couture salons in Paris; Vuitton’s leather goods facility in Asnières, France, and a production site for Guerlain beauty products in Orphin, France.

LVMH executives noticed that many young visitors asked the artisans doing demonstrations: “How did you end up in this job?”

The luxury group plans to root out applicants via its network of connections with schools and organizations in low-income neighborhoods. The French company is to cover tuition costs and salaries, while the LVMH-branded diploma offers a “seal of guarantee,” Gaemperle said.

She noted the initiative would heighten motivation, engagement and pride among senior employees of the group, including master apprentices.

While graduates are free to go on to work at any company they like, LVMH is growing sufficiently fast that it would be able to engage a good number of them, Gaemperle noted.

Successful students received a Certificate of Vocational Aptitude, which falls under France’s apprenticeship program for young people ages 16 to 26. Some 61 percent of apprentices go directly into employment, while 78 percent find jobs within six months, according to government statistics.

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