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Behind the Scenes at the FedEx Hub in Paris

May 18, 2015

FedEx helps inspire French junior high school students

Airports typically represent great economic potential for the surrounding areas. However, the unemployment rate for young people living near the Roissy-Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG) in Paris is quite high. Some transport industry companies, such as FedEx, have taken actions to support education as well as employment in the area.

Opening company doors

When the opportunity arose to bring young junior high school students from the area surrounding CDG into FedEx’s European hub, the company jumped at the chance. The René Descartes Junior High School is located in Tremblay-en-France, 10 km from CDG hub. Its Principal welcomed this initiative, which was co-organized by United Way Tocqueville, saying, “Our students need to learn more about the business world, and company employees can also benefit from supporting them.”

Theatrical preparation

Theatrical workshop for the students

For 14 year olds, entering a business workplace can be intimidating, especially when a short timeframe requires them to adapt quickly. Lacking self-confidence or being overconfident can make it difficult to start off on the right foot. The solution: theatrical training workshops at the Junior High School coordinated by a specialized organization. The lead instructor pointed out that “one of the advantages of theatre is that young people have to deal with their emotions.”

Paris hub tour

In the fall, 20 students visited the FedEx European hub at Roissy. Their objective: learn more about a potential employer and explore the variety of job options and career development opportunities. Tour coordinator and Managing Director of Operations at the CDG hub, Dirk Van Impe, shared his own personal experience with them. “When I visited the Brussels Airport at 15, I knew that I wanted to work in an airport. I hope this tour will encourage you to consider new career possibilities.”

The students were quite enthusiastic about visiting the Network Operations Control center. They were surprised by how quiet it was and amazed by the aircraft moving along the runways. One of the René Descartes Junior High School teachers shared his impression saying, “I believe that the tour of the control tower may just have inspired some of our students to want to work in the aeronautics industry.”

The youths enjoyed the opportunity to share some of their own life experiences and the chance to practice their English with pilots coming in after landing. They were even able to scan a few shipping documents themselves! A tour guide himself and CDG Senior Manager of Operations, Christophe Diblan, said, “We want to show these young people just how important teamwork is.”

The full 2-day FedEx experience

20 students were also invited to spend two days at a hotel industry company and two days at FedEx. After a greeting from Alain Chaillé, VP Operations for Southern Europe and strong community service supporter, about twenty volunteer FedEx employees mentored the students in 15 different departments including Planning and Engineering, Marketing, Strategic buying, Reception, Health and Safety, and Customer service.

The students had a chance to discuss what jobs they aspired to in the future and their responses were as exciting as they were diverse, including mechanic, surgeon, nursery nurse, IT technician and midwife. We are happy to report that several students expressed a desire to work in the transport industry!

Final impressions

Back to school on the bus!

When asked what they liked most or were most impressed by, the students said things like “it’s so big;” “it’s very clean;” “this tour taught us about roles and responsibilities throughout a large company;” “I’d like to work or do an internship here;” and, of course, “it’s really cool!”

The employees who volunteered to mentor these young people invested a lot of energy in developing the program itself, planning special activities especially for the students, tailoring them to their level of knowledge and achievement. It was a rewarding experience for not only the students, but the employees as well. Only time will tell, but it seems that some results have already been achieved from this work between generations.

Watch a video about the program here:

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