20 year old Jayson and 25 year old Maël both come from Cherbourg-en-Cotentin in Manche. There’s only a few years between them but they have the same passion and experience: welding and WorldSkills. The former won gold at the last trade competition in Lyon and joined the French team to compete at the international contest. The latter has been patiently coaching him for the last 10 years. Both of them started as apprentices and now have permanent contracts at CMN – les Constructions Mécaniques de Normandie, in Cherbourg. Let’s take a look at multiple perspectives from two talented young adults who have already found their feet in an industrial trade for the future.

I always wanted to be a welder. My entire family are welders. I started when I was 12 – it all began with a coated electrode!

What do you like about your job?

Jayson: “Lots of things! I like the attention to detail, focus, independence… You’re part of a team but I focus on my own work. I’m in my own little bubble. I really love working on ships: you start from nothing, just sheet metal, that gradually turns into something that will form a boat.”

Maël: “Yes, shipbuilding is more interesting than just making something that you don’t know what it will be used for… You never work on the same thing, no two days are the same, there’s real variety in our projects. There’s prefabrication, putting together small parts before assembly; 2D with boat parts that are assembled in the workshop and 3D when the ship is completely finished.”

vue bateau CMN

Which qualities do you have to have to work in this job?

Maël: “You need to be patient, meticulous, a team player and you need to love what you do because it’s a physical job. You need to have willpower and patience, but you’re always learning in this job. It’s for men and women alike. There’s a good atmosphere.”

 Jayson: “You have to listen and respect people with experience in the sector… You have to have your own flair without being too heavy-handed with it.”

You can see the ship come to life before your very eyes: you see the sheet metal coming in, parts gradually being assembled, blocks, then the ship, paint, interior… and you see it on the water.

How do you think the job will change in the future?

Jayson: “It’s changed over the last few years: for example, there are welding robots that can work non-stop on the entire length. It’s a machine on wheels with a welding torch and a remote control. It saves us precious time and makes the work less repetitive, which is better.”

Maël: “There will definitely be more automation in the future which makes our trade less gruelling. We work faster, better and produce more plus it’s easier for welders: it means you don’t have to be on your knees all the time. It won’t replace what we do: there are still lots of places that machines can’t or won’t go.”

Why did you want to compete in WorldSkills?

Jayson: “When I was studying my Level V Welding Diploma at CFA Edmond Doucet in Equeurdreville, Déborah Corette was competing in WorldSkills. At the time, it was still called the Skills Olympics. It made me want to take part and a threw myself into it.”

Maël: “We do talk about it a lot at CFA. Personally, I wanted to see what I was capable of and it was an opportunity to upgrade my skills. It’s a real learning curve. When Jayson joined the company as an apprentice and told us he wanted to give it a go, I thought it was great! He was chosen for the regionals and I started coaching him for the nationals. The Normandy CFA in Doucey is also a welding centre of excellence for WorldSkills. That means that every French finalist can come to train here in Normandy before the competition.

Julien Hélie

CMN, Constructions Mécaniques de Normandie

The shipyard in Cherbourg was founded in 1956 by Félix Amiot and has made a name for itself building military vessels such as patrol boats and swift crafts for the Navy (French and foreign).

With over 60 years in existence and now part of the PRIVINVEST group, the company is a key figure in shipbuilding, world-famous (namely among foreign Navies) and focuses on combat ships, fishing boats and marine energy (tidal stream generators for the sea and river).

How did the test and training go?

Jayson: “The test was made up of four modules. I had 19 hours to complete them: Maël, my coach, and I agreed that I needed to handle the tasks as best I could in the time I had. Without going too fast. And it worked!”

The nationals were something else – the site, the exhibition centre in Lyon, it was mind-blowing! I couldn't believe how many people were there, the atmosphere! I can't wait to do it all again in September!

Maël: “The company gave us 10 weeks to train up to the national competition with weeks at the welding school, HEFAIS and CFA. It was good practice for the tests… We threw all the previous years’ work in so we covered every base. It was a bit tough towards the end, not physically, but mentally. It’s basically a year of training and doing the same things.”

AROM

The tests

Jayson had to produce three specimens, so three welding samples that were then sent to radiography to inspect the inside of the welding.

  • The first test was a steel angle.
  • The second was a “pressure part” which involves welding a custom-made slab. The part is then subject to water pressure and welded using different techniques.
  • The third test was TIG welding an aluminium part: this is the most painstaking technique.
  • And the last was TIG welding a stainless steel part.

Jayson: “The atmosphere at WorldSkills was great, everyone got on and there was always someone to give you a lift when you felt low. The hardest part was training and doing the same things again and again. But I have absolutely no regrets; I can’t wait for the international competition and to see other people from Normandy in the French team.”

I wanted to be a boilermaker and did welding as part of my course: I just fell in love with it

What does Normandy mean to you and your trade?

Maël: It’s where I was born! I love it. In terms of work, it’s a shipbuilding and nuclear land with lots of companies hiring. Metalworking is changing, there are lots of companies and facilities where we can do our job. These industries are becoming more and more modern and the Region is putting a lot of resources into training.”

Jayson: “Normandy is always here for us! Welding aside, I love fishing in Saint-Marcouf and doing DIY.”

Did you know?

HEFAÏS is an elite trade college in Beaumont-Hague in Manche founded by several Normandy companies to make up for the shortfall in staff: EDF, NAVAL Group, CMN, Orano. They want to train the best welders in France to work in the nuclear and naval sectors.
The college is also for jobseekers and employees, novices or experts, men or women from Normandy or elsewhere.

Any final thoughts to encourage someone to train in your line of work?

Jayson: “Just go for it! It’s an exciting trade, you never do the same thing and it’s worthwhile because you can see what it’s for.”

Maël: “The trade is modernising and there are opportunities for growth. For example, at CMN you start as a welder, then you manage a small team, then you’re a team leader etc. It pays well too: a good welder can earn 2500 euros. The best training is a professional degree with a Level V Welding Diploma. Once you’re working, you have to update your qualifications every two years or so depending on the technique.”

Did you know?

Over 800 participants from 69 trades, ranging from construction to manufacturing, took part in WorldSkills in Lyon between September 14th and 16th. Normandy was represented by the Agence régionale de l’Orientation et des Métiers and stood out at the event, winning a total of fifteen medals (7 gold, 3 silver, 5 bronze and 9 medallions for excellence. 4 Normans – Thomas, Jayson, Thiaifène and Sacha – qualified and joined the 2024 French WorldSkills team. They will be flying the flag for France (and Normandy!) in Lyon in September 2024.

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