Mix and openness: the keys to tomorrow’s training!
As the timber & wood sector feels the impact of the digital revolution, training must cut across traditional boundaries. We talk to Arnaud Godevin, the Principal of L’Ecole Superieure du Bois (higher school of wood) in Nantes.
What’s your take on the big shift in timber & wood sector trades?
It stretches far beyond the timber and wood industry. It affects the whole of industry and extends to education and training. Nowadays, young people starting training were born in a world of computers and the Web. We’re faced with a shifting paradigm, a whole different culture. On one hand, trades are going digital at both production and organization levels, notably thanks to BIM, and on the other hand, relations between individuals have been redefined by new communication tools. This upheaval is a huge source of opportunities, both collectively and individually. At the same time, it’s a source of uncertainty. We already know that half the trades as we know them will be gone within twenty years, to be replaced by others that don’t even exist yet. We must guide our audience, teach them how to reconcile the gadgetry aspect of digital with the sweeping changes it implies, especially at workshop level.
In a context of that kind, what’s at stake as regards youth training?
This culture shift is dragging skills into permanent transformation in its wake. The digital revolution is fantastic, but we haven’t yet been able to measure all its effects, particularly on human relations. Today, we are busy training youths to fulfil the expectations of companies while providing them with the basics to ease their adaptation to the future—developing critical thinking, taking the bigger view, asking the right questions, being able to sift through information, etc. Companies sometimes seem a bit disappointed with the amount of skills young tradesmen can immediately put to use. But once they get past the “it was better before” roadblock, they need to see that these young people are capable of doing a whole lot of new things. To pave the way for this shift in trades, everyone must progress at the same pace, young people and company bosses alike—including the establishment. We need to change our outlook, our vision, our standpoint.
How does l’Ecole Supérieure du Bois adapt its training to the times ?
To go with the diversity of materials, we are looking for a mix of skills. To do so, we receive designers and architects in our training courses with an objective: anti-pigeon holing. Cross generational joint training is also being implemented. It brings together groups of students at different levels, with different training backgrounds. We put these into project mode to work on real problems. Thus everybody trains everybody else. The company inputs its experience and skills and the young ones their freshness and new outlook. And very often, this opens up pathways that the companies never imagined. The timber and wood industry needs “thinker/doers” and “thinker/make doers.”
How do you see trades evolving?
Trades are becoming segmented. For example, to make headway in furnishing, it’s best to avoid the mid-range. Producers bank on either long production runs or premium manufacture (aka craftsmanship). This segmentation inevitably gives rise to very different trades. For automated industrial production, you encounter mainly line operators, while for craft production, which requires careful choice of materials, the traditional trades continue to be relevant even though the objects are often designed on computers.
Moreover, the timber & wood sector is affected by the evolution in timber construction methods. The new technological timbers, decomposed and restructured off site on an industrial scale, generate new tasks. The joiner’s place will no longer be the same: instead of prefabricating sections, which is now done automatically, the job will involve building new features into the products, like LEDs or auto-closing systems. Carpenters will need to be part of a BIM-type approach covering across-the-board skills, and thus develop their versatility. They will take dimensions on site, monitor manufacture, then return to carry out installation.
Development in the timber & wood sector doesn’t belong to the sector. It belongs to those who specify, the designers, the architects, and we’re going to have to get used to it.