26th November 2008

Back in May, whilst basking in the Mediterranean warmth, we decided to make sure that the coming winter wasn't filled with steamed-up windows, running with condensation. Yes, that's right, we ordered double-glazing. But, comme d'habitude, we found that the system doesn't work as we'd expected. At the time we thought we'd been clever: get the work done in the summer so that we don't freeze whilst the house is temporarily windowless and doorless. Well, it's now six months later and finally the window man has arrived to do the job! Yes, whilst the temperatures are plummeting alarmingly outside. But, we have to admit - he knows his stuff. He works fast and efficiently, fitting the new doors and windows with an ease that shows he is a true artisan.
I asked him how long it had taken him to learn his trade. His reply? 15 years. The French apprenticeship system puts the UK system to shame. Many young people in France look forward to starting work and learning a trade and the vast majority who don't go on to higher education enter an apprenticeship or another form of vocational training. Few schoolleavers go directly into a job without it. The French apprenticeship scheme is rightly recognised as one of the best in the world. It's a combination of on-the-job training and further education, where 1/2 days per week are spent at an apprentice training centre (centre de formation d'apprentis/CFA). A standard apprenticeship lasts from 1-3 years, depending on the type of profession.
So, do we want to go back to the English double-glazing hype of 'you buy one, you get one free' (BOGOF) ? In a word: no. BOGOF is correct! We may have had to wait an eternity for the Frenchman to arrive, but when he did, the job was done amazingly well. Yet another example: c'est la France.

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