The Article 1 association provides support to 12,000 young people from modest backgrounds to promote success in their career path choices, studies and professional integration The Eiffage Foundation has supported Article 1 financially and through the voluntary action of its employees since 2015.
Throughout France, Eiffage Group employees volunteer to mentor promising students from modest backgrounds to encourage their success and their integration into the workplace.
The Eiffage Foundation put some questions to Pierre Bureau, operations manager at Eiffage Génie Civil Hydraulique since 2017, and Kevin Corouge, a student he mentored for a year through the Article 1 association programme.
Pierre Bureau, what made you get involved in the Article 1 mentoring programme?
P.B. I was very interested in the ideas and objectives promoted by Article 1 in terms of equal opportunities and supporting students from modest backgrounds. These ideas and objectives were detailed by the Eiffage Foundation in a newsletter, with a request for volunteers to get involved with the association (called Passeport Avenir at the time).
What is your role as mentor and what do you get out of the experience?
P.B. My role is mainly to answer various questions, and support and motivate the mentee! I also provide perspective in some cases regarding higher education, by sharing my own personal experiences.
Volunteering with Article 1 only takes up a couple of hours of my time a month. Last year, helping Kevin to achieve his objectives and gain confidence for the next stage in his studies has been very satisfying and is a positive sign for the future!
Do you still mentor students?
P.B. This is my third year with Article 1, and the mentoring experience has started off well with a third student. I still keep in contact with Kevin; we worked very well together last year I thought. The first year I was mentoring wasn’t a great success, exchanges were limited because the student didn’t seek my help enough.
What would you say to Eiffage employees to encourage them to get involved in solidarity action?
P.B. Taking part in the Article 1 mentoring programme is not time-consuming (the student has no more free time than you do if they are on a Prépa course) but it is very valuable in terms of developing the student’s career path and confidence at this very crucial time in their lives.
Kevin Corouge, could you tell us a bit about your educational background?
K.C. I passed my science baccalaureate exam in 2016. Unsure what to do next, I enrolled on a Physical Measurements technical programme (DUT Mesures-Physiques) at IUT Saint-Nazaire, which is known for being quite general (providing a good level in maths and sciences). When I qualified I wanted to enrol in an engineering school. Because I didn’t have the required level, I decided to join the Prépa ATS programme. This is a one-year prep course for entry into major engineering schools open to students with DUT and BTS qualifications, which is very similar to the CPGE MPSI programme (Maths, Physics and Science for Engineering). This year was very intense but it enabled me to get into INSA Toulouse to study environmental engineering. Later I hope to work in the environmental sector and the energy sector in particular.
What made you join the Article 1 mentoring programme?
K.C. Coming from a technical background (DUT), we were quickly taught the importance of developing a network. Also Pierre helped me prepare for the oral interviews at engineering schools. He was able to answer many of my questions and still provides a lot of support.
How does the programme work?
K.C. Pierre helped me prepare for the oral interviews (how to introduce myself, be prepared for certain questions, how to do an interview in English, etc.). He also helped me improve my CV and write my application letters. He also advised me on my choice of competitive entrance exams (for the various engineering schools). And he gave me advice on how to prepare for written tests.
On a less academic level, we went to visit a water tower under construction (see photo). Having studied some hydraulics, it was very interesting for me to visit a water tower construction site. It enabled me to see the theory in practice. It also gave me the opportunity to talk with professionals in the field.
Where are you now in the mentoring process?
K.C. I am still in contact with Pierre and I plan on staying in contact. I am repeating the experience this year, this time with a different mentor because I feel it’s important to have a variety of perspectives. It also allows me to benefit from my mentors’ networks. At engineering school, I’ll have to do several internships. In this situation it’s important to have access to a network.
How do you benefit from the programme?
K.C. I think the programme is very constructive. It allows you to prepare for the competitive entrance exams. It’s also very important to be in contact with professionals. They are often the ones best placed to answer your questions. That’s why this year I’ve decided to mentor a secondary school student myself.
What would you say to students who are thinking about the Article 1 programme?
K.C. I would say go for it. It’s true that at the beginning you think it’s going to be complicated and take up a huge amount of time. In the end, I followed the programme while doing a prep course (where free time is very limited) and honestly I am very happy to have spent that time with my mentor so he could help me prepare for my orals, answer my questions, correct my CV and my numerous application letters. We tend to underestimate this kind of support. Also, schools don’t always offer interview technique training (or it’s not really tailored to the person). I really think that you get a head start if you take advantage of the services offered by Article 1.