“We realised there was huge demand for training and we wanted to do our bit,” explains Antonio Ciancio, co-founder with Sébastien Monney of the Centre de Formation dans le domaine de l’Horlogerie (CFH), which officially opened a year ago, last March. The school’s partnership with the Centre Interrégional de Formation des Montagnes Neuchâteloises (CIFOM), a reference in the field of training, adds to its credentials. And with not an empty desk in sight, success is on the cards for the school, which is funded by tuition fees.
Classes are taught by watchmakers and by an expert in human resources. “As a guarantee of quality, lessons take place in classrooms which are adapted to theory and practice, with a maximum of ten students per course. All rooms are equipped with the tools and infrastructure students can expect to find in a working environment,” Antonio Ciancio adds. Located in Plan-les-Ouates in the canton of Geneva, surrounded by watchmaking firms, the school runs three courses: an introduction to watchmaking, quality control, and fitting/casing.
“There are numerous job openings with opportunities for continuing education,” says Antonio Ciancio. Indeed, some brands have asked the school to organise ongoing training for their staff. Nor is this the only link with companies. The CFH actively facilitates contacts between its students and the world of work. With this in mind, and to keep track of students’ progress, the school has set up a skills management programme that provides companies with key documents when assessing candidates and recruiting. The school considers it has reached its full objective only when a student finds work. As such, each courses sets aside days to teach students job-finding skills and interview techniques.
Open to all
Students on the fitting/casing course learn to identify, inspect, repair and assemble the various watch components. They also familiarise themselves with the different tools used in casing, assembling the watch’s external parts, and inspection. The course is scheduled over 31 half-days (4 hours) or 36 evening classes (3½ hours). Students who pass the CFH diploma also receive an additional certificate from the CIFOM.
The quality control course covers ten lessons of 3½ hours, at the end of which students know how to read a blueprint and identify tolerances, are familiar with conventional measuring tools, are able to use the appropriate quality control tools and respect tolerances. They are also given a full grounding in quality standards.
As specialised as it may be, the CFH has no intention of becoming a watchmakers’ ghetto and is opening wide its doors to the general public. “We welcome anyone interested in learning the basics of watchmaking or taking a specialised course, provided they meet our entrance requirements,” Antonio Ciancio observes. The CFH also responds quickly to requests for targeted training, for example for brands. The school is currently training 18 future employees.
Watchmaking still attracts young people
The CFH is a welcome initiative, and not the only one of its kind. A number of training courses and apprenticeships have opened in the past few years, in response to exponential demand. “With regard to training, it’s essential we work with an eye to the long term. The sector will soon be looking to recruit again when brighter days return,” comments Jean-Daniel Pasche, President of the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry (FH). But how long will young graduates have to wait before these sunnier days? The lack of data in this field makes it hard to say, although the FH is confident the sector can absorb a good percentage, as newly-qualified staff don’t all arrive on the job market at once. Nor is there likely to be a glut of watchmakers looking for work in the future.
According to Jean-Daniel Pasche, the current crisis has in no way lessened watchmaking’s appeal, as the branch continues to attract many young people in both technical and academic posts. As though to prove his words, the various watchmaking schools along the Arc Jurassien all have a full intake of students for the new academic year, beginning late August.