Whether it’s Nestlé, Auchan, Crédit Agricole, Orange, Coca-Cola, Total or Carrefour, all large companies need to have a high quality Graduate Program. The aim of these programs is to attract the best talents by offering them a springboard to a career in the company concerned. Launched barely a year ago, in the spring of 2017, our own Graduate Program supports the development of the Assystem employer brand. An employer brand that aims to attract and retain new engineering talents in order to perpetuate a tradition of innovation and excellence. This initiative adds to the array of programs already in place at Assystem, such as the induction program for a hundred interns, hiring events and the various partnerships with engineering schools.
The Assystem Graduate Program is the first, and so far the only, program of its type in the French engineering industry. It reflects our pioneering role in helping young graduates integrate smoothly in the organization and expand their skills. The program sets us apart from our competitors and will help to prepare the new generation of engineers groomed to ultimately take over from the current executive management team. The 24-month program is broken down into three 6-to-12 month engagements, including one international engagement, performed in our offices or in the offices of clients, whichever the candidate prefers. The aim is to help young graduates to learn about our four core disciplines – Technical, Projects, Management and Sales & Marketing. Naturally, if a candidate has already chosen the discipline that interests them the most, we assign them to the engagements that will best enable them to hone their skills in the area concerned, while also acquiring a holistic vision of the other disciplines. The Graduate Program is open solely to high potential graduates and juniors with one-to-three years’ experience.
High potential candidates
The Graduate Program is for the best talents. The objective is to help them fulfill their potential but also to create a dynamic workforce. To be eligible to join the program, candidates must be graduates of an engineering or business school, speak fluent English, have a team spirit, and be capable of working without supervision and making decisions on sometimes complex matters. In other words, they should share the mindset of Assystem which, as a service company, will always prize soft skills more than hard skills which can be acquired step by step. They should also be attracted by a career in the service sector, which requires candidates to demonstrate qualities of flexibility, mobility and adaptability in order to flourish in an environment shaped by very large-scale projects and numerous internal transfers. The first two candidates for the Graduate Program – Orianne Briquet and Najwa Zerrad – fit the bill perfectly. Aged 22, Najwa Zerrad is a general engineering graduate from École Nationale Supérieure d’Arts et Métiers. Educated at the Aix-en-Provence centre, then in Paris, she completed several internships in the nuclear industry. “I’ve always been attracted by this industry,” she explains. “However, rather than working for an industrial group, I would prefer to interact with companies across the industry without specializing only in such areas as operations or dismantling projects.” She was familiar with the principle of Graduate Programs but wasn’t sure that they would meet her needs. “I thought they were too rigid, and frequently too focused on a specific discipline.” It was the freedom to craft her own program that encouraged her to apply to Assystem.
A personalized program for each candidate
What makes the Assystem Graduate Program different is its flexibility. Each program is designed according to the candidate’s desires and aspirations. We don’t sell an off-the-shelf program, everything is determined once the graduate’s profile has been examined. The focus on personalization ensures that each candidate is offered a high value-added experience. This flexibility is what Najwa likes best about the program. “The point of the Graduate Program isn’t to train me in a particular discipline,” she says, “but rather to let me get a taste of different engagements so that I can find what suits me best. It’s exactly what I wanted when I graduated, the opportunity to learn about the assorted disciplines and the various issues in each sector because in this way I can determine exactly which area I want to work in.” In October of last year, she started working on an engagement to manage progress on the construction of a new nuclear power station in England. “The Graduate Program managers assigned me to this engagement so that I could obtain an overview of the services provided to a nuclear customer,” explains Najwa. “Without going into the technical details, I intervene in the construction of all of the buildings. It’s an enormous project involving 23,000 people and an incredible opportunity for me to understand all the challenges thrown up by this type of engagement and to learn more about all the nuclear disciplines.” An opportunity too for Najwa to interact every day with around twenty different people, each working in a specific area.
Najwa tells her manager how she is getting on with the engagement during their weekly meetings. “During these meetings, he takes the time to explain the discipline, discuss various projects, present the company, its structure and culture, and include me in his network,” she explains. “At the beginning, you want to know everything but don’t know where to start, but during these meetings I can ask all the questions that come to mind and get an answer.” Throughout the program, candidates are followed and mentored by a member of Assystem’s Executive Committee. Each mentor is chosen based on the relevance of his or her expertise and experience in relation to the candidate’s project. Just five graduates are selected each year to take part in the program, to ensure that they all benefit from personalized mentoring. “The whole idea of the Graduate Program is to make it easier for graduates to meet and learn from seasoned engineers,” says Najwa who considers that this transmission of expertise is a key benefit of the program. “The mentoring and support given to us is invaluable in the early days of our career. I regularly talk about this to my friends, and I’ve realized that other companies don’t take such good care of their graduate employees.”
An investment in the future
The program offers participants real opportunities to participate in high profile projects, assume responsibilities, acquire battle-hardened experience in managing a team and an operation. Graduate Program candidates aren’t interns, they are Assystem employees and the mentoring system helps to ensure they quickly find their place in the Group’s existing teams. Upon joining the program, they sign a permanent employment contract and become a member of the workforce in the same way as other employees. “I’ve only worked here for five months but already I can’t see myself working anywhere else,” says Najwa. “I feel like a valued member of the team, not someone grafted on to it from outside.” Orianne Briquet, 25, also feels that she belongs. “I was hired at the end of 2015 to work on a nuclear project management engagement,” she says, “and what I still find striking is Assystem’s unique people-centric culture.” She first discovered this culture when she took part in the Academic Excellence Chair sponsored by Assystem at the Rouen INSA where she studied before joining the Group.
Despite her 18 months’ experience within the organization, when she heard that a Graduate Program was being set up, Orianne immediately decided to apply to join it. “I believed that I was still eligible and after a series of interviews with management I was accepted.” A great opportunity to accelerate her career, discover aspects of Assystem that she hadn’t experienced during client engagements and gain her first international experience. In recent weeks, Orianne has been working on an operational coordination engagement for the Flamanville nuclear project, giving her an opportunity to discover all the technical angles. “I’m very lucky to be taking part in the Graduate Program,” she says. “I’m diversifying my knowledge and learning from my fellow team members. It’s a novel experience that is fully aligned with the process of innovation that is a feature of the nuclear industry.”
Diversifying the engineering industry
As well as benefiting from this momentum, Orianne is enthusiastic about taking part in a program that is helping to diversify the engineering industry by increasing the proportion of women engineers. “Although it’s purely by chance that we are both women candidates, this is nonetheless a good reflection of the mentality at Assystem, which works hard to banish the glass ceiling.” Assystem has been working for many years to improve the gender balance within the organization, in particular through the #IncredibleWomen program. This commitment to gender balance and equal opportunity is an integral part of Assystem’s celebrated people-centric culture which gives pride of place to employees. “Science and engineering are still viewed by many people as being for men only,” recognizes Orianne. “With its inclusive policy, Assystem provides a welcome reminder that women also have a role to play in this area. This type of policy creates vocations among young girls and ensures that the torch is passed on to young talents, whatever they are and wherever they come from.”