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Slovak apprentices bring a European flavour to French restaurant

In summer 2017, Lucia Belúchová began a year-long apprenticeship at a brasserie in the town of Laval in northern France.

Before Lucia made her move to France – a journey which took her 18 hours by minibus – she studied at Nitra Hotel Academy in her native Slovakia, where she obtained a diploma covering service and management in the hospitality industry.

Lucia was then looking to get some professional experience abroad and, with the help of the Your first EURES Job (YfEJ) scheme, found her apprenticeship at Laval’s Le Cap Horn brasserie.

YfEJ offers jobseekers an opportunity to gain valuable work experience abroad, introducing them to a new country, culture, and often a new language. For Lucia, this cultural and linguistic incentive was the main motivation to participate in the scheme. “I wanted to improve my French and get to know another culture, so I decided to go to France,” she says. “Before that, I had never worked abroad.”

For apprentices like Lucia, working abroad brings new experiences and challenges. “The most difficult thing has been the French language,” she explains. “I found it easy at school, but the reality is much more difficult. There are also many things which surprise me, as France is very different from Slovakia.”

To help her settle in France, Lucia received financial support from YfEJ and was offered accommodation in a local house-share with other young apprentices.

Lucia’s dual apprenticeship means that she spends around three weeks a month working as a waitress in the brasserie, and the rest of her time studying at the Centre de Formation des Apprentis des Villes de la Mayenne (CFA VM, Training Centre for Apprentices for Towns in Mayenne).

Lucia is not the first Slovak apprentice to have worked at Le Cap Horn. In fact, the brasserie has been recruiting apprentices from the country for the past four years – with much success – thanks to a partnership with the CFA VM, which represents YfEJ by acting as a matchmaker for local businesses and foreign jobseekers.

As Le Cap Horn’s General Manager Gilles Poulain explains, this has given the brasserie access to a pool of potential apprentices who offer an enthusiasm and passion for the sector which is in short supply locally. “For four years now, I have been able to recruit apprentices from Slovakia,” Gilles says. “Young people who are hard-working and interested in the sector – something which is lacking in our region.”

Lucia and her fellow Slovak apprentices have also impressed Gilles with their language skills, in both French and English. According to Vincent Ledauphin, Head of European Programmes at the CFA VM, the presence of multilingual apprentices from abroad in workplaces brings a European dimension which is good for customers and can help to make French staff more open and aware of Europe.

With their enthusiasm, language skills and international outlook, Lucia and her predecessors have done more than just help to plug a skills gap, resulting in a partnership which is mutually beneficial for both employer and employee.

This partnership is part of a pilot project of a consortium of 33 European training centres, including the CFA VM and Nitra Hotel Academy, led by workers’ association Les Compagnons du Devoir. The project has the backing of French MEP Jean Arthuis and DG Employment, Social Affairs & Inclusion of the European Commission, and there is hope that it will inspire similarly successful partnerships across Europe in the future.

Your first EURES Job is a European Union job mobility scheme. To find out more about employment and training opportunities across the EU or to find employees with the skills you need, contact one of the scheme’s employment services or get in touch with your local EURES Adviser via the EURES portal.


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