Apprentices at the Village IME

PARIS — Surrounded by high-school students, Tammy Foucan talked about his experience as a member of the sales team of Parisian department store Le Bon Marché.

“They asked me about the steps I took to get where I am and if the job required specific qualifications,” said the 20-year-old, speaking at the fifth edition of the Village IME, a vocational fair sponsored by LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton’s Institut des Métiers d’Excellence held on Feb. 4. “For this particular apprenticeship, none is actually needed.”

Foucan is a student of the Excellence Retail training program at Parisian business school CPRO Stephenson, one of the latest to join the roster of 21 schools who have partnered with the IME.

“I initially trained as a pastry chef, but have always been interested in retail because I love human contact,” said the student, whose culinary background earned him points at Le Bon Marché, where he is employed as an apprentice in the home section of the department store.

“What is great with this apprenticeship is that you spend most of your time working and actually putting in practice what you’ve learnt: The more clients I get to deal with, the more I learn about my profession.”

Founded in 2014, the IME aims to open up opportunities for kids to discover the group’s métiers across a range of domains and learn about work-study apprenticeships done in partnership with top French schools in jewelry, dressmaking, watchmaking, leather goods, client advisory, retail design, winemaking, gastronomy and beauty. They include the École de la Bijouterie-Joaillerie de Paris for jewelry, the Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne for fashion and Les Compagnons du Devoir for leather goods.

The basis of the IME is to create a bridge between the luxury business, in constant need of trained artisans, and students planning for the future. Via its partner schools, it offers training from vocational to MBA level, and is open to both students and adult learners.

Partnering with training programs that are accessible without any prior qualifications — not even the French baccalauréat is required to join the Excellence Retail program — is a way to spark the interest of younger generations.

“There is always some form of self-censorship: Most young people from the area think that luxury houses such as Louis Vuitton, Chaumet or Berluti aren’t accessible to them,” said Françoise Schoenberger, director of social development at LVMH, in reference to Clichy-sous-Bois, the Paris suburb where the fair is held.

To prove them wrong once and for all, the IME introduced a new format for the fifth edition of its fair: Visitors were able to sit down with current apprentices at eight LVMH houses — Christian Dior Couture, Berluti, Celine, Chaumet, Givenchy, Louis Vuitton, Le Bon Marché and LVMH Recherche — accompanied by human resources managers to simulate job interviews.

“Our greatest advantage is that these training courses, which were designed with the needs of the LVMH houses in mind, all lead to actual jobs,” Schoenberger continued. “Three quarters of our students find employment straight after graduating. Our role is to show them that their passion can be transformed into a course that will actually interest them, leading them to gain experience and eventually find the right job.”

Since the inception of the project, the IME has trained 800 artisans in four countries. The program has bases in France, Italy, Switzerland and now Spain, which was opened in 2019 with an Introduction to Leather Goods program initiated between Les Compagnons du Devoir and luxury brand Loewe. Also debuting at the fair was the IME’s new makeup formulation course with the Orléans IUT technical school in collaboration with LVMH Research Center and cosmetics school ISIPCA.