For more than nine centuries Les Compagnons du Devoir “The Companions of Duty” have been providing high-quality training for young people in a variety of manual trades. Training offers both apprenticeships and higher-level skills training for traditional and modern techniques. Trainees move between workplaces all over France and abroad, learning a trade but also about themselves, through the experience of different people and cultures. Training helps students achieve high intellect in one of 30 trades from initial qualifications through to Masters degree (Australian equivalent). There are a handful of artisans in Australia with exposure to this level of training.
Les Compagnons du Devoir is one of two schools in the world recognised under UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage safeguarding program.
Watch Thomas (a blacksmith and metal fabricator) and Laurent (a furniture maker) with fellow Compagnons, Anthony (joiner) and Bertrand (pastry chef), as they discuss our 800-year-old legacy, rigorous study pathway, French traditions, their completed major works, through to life now in Australia.
This is the last webinar episode of the first series, which discusses French culture by a panel of experts mostly living in Australia, and all speaking English. These free events have been curated by Le Festival Brisbane.
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Key Presentation Takeaways
This type of study is unavailable in Australia in the Trade and construction industry. Australian tradies achieve a Certificate 3 to obtain their qualifications.
The level of training and intellect Compagnons achieve is equivalent to a Master’s Degree.
Some Australians seeking further education can apply for grants, like the Churchill Fellowship program, to learn these skills in Europe. If they are studying in France, there is a good chance their teachers are also Compagnons.
Compagnonnage has a unique and strict education system.
To start the journey to become a Compagnon, the first step is to complete a two-year apprenticeship.
To then start your “Tour de France”, with the approval of Compagnon Elders, each student is then required to make an Adoption Piece for assessment. If passed, students may start their Tour and will then become known as an “Aspirant”.
It takes up to five years to complete the Aspirant level to gain enough experience. The assessment to formally graduate as a Compagnon is a process in itself. Each Aspirant must again ask the Elders if they are technically and spiritually ready to start the process of making a “Masterpiece” for final assessment.
There is no monetary exchange for tuition as Compagnons is a not-for-profit association. When Compagnons complete their Masterpieces, they are required to pay their skills forward to the next generation of Aspirants by serving in a management or teaching role for 2-3 years within the association.
One aspect within the unique philosophies of Compagnons is focussing studies on balancing the hard and soft skills. It has been a fundamental process they have used for centuries.
The first years of study are completed manually – only with hand tools – to ensure they have the right mindset to manoeuvre their hands precisely and safely during manual labour.
In current times it is not commercially viable for Compagnons to do all their work by hand and often use power tools.
In 2010, Les Compagnons du Devoir became recognised by UNESCO under their “Intangible Cultural Heritage” safeguarding program for their “network for transmitting knowledge and identities by the profession”.
Les Compagnon du Devoir is one of two educational facilities in the world to achieve this recognition.
Unfortunately, no aspects of Australian culture have been recognised and safeguarded under this program yet.