Back to work through training and practice

Every year, Secours Populaire provides assistance to more than a million people in France. In particular, it manages a number of job-seeking and job-creation groups. The name of the one in Argentan says it all: "Back to Work".

«  I was impressed by the pluck and sense of duty that the managers and volunteers of the Secours Populaire in Argentan have displayed for the past 25 years. Despite the inevitable failures, they have never flagged in their mission: to help terribly disadvantaged human beings and families recover their dignity. »

Sylvie Berloquin

The vicious circle is well-known by now: Argentan's main business was a foundry and metalworking. As the industry sector died out, it caused, directly or indirectly, other businesses to shut down: Moulinex, MIC (which made wood pallets and had 600 employees), La Soudure Moderne, Cegetex (which made stockings and panty hose) and others. In turn, a number of businesses in the centre of town had to shut up shop.
Today many people here are jobless and are suffering from profound financial and psychological distress.
The Secours Populaire in the Orne accommodates 1,800 disadvantaged families, 200 of them minimum-wage tenants.
Its "Back to Work" program covered thirteen of them, aged from 30 to 45 and with good work skills and the ability to grow. The project includes full assistance in order to move them into a new job. To increase their chances of getting back to work, these individuals were assigned the task within the association itself of acting as sales promoters, with skill sets that can be transferred to the private sector.
 

Refurbishments to be more welcoming

Marie, corporate secretary of the Departmental Federation of Secours Populaire in the Orne deparment of France; Claude, workshops leader; and a trainee food saleswoman.

The program was in fact based on the already ongoing work of the Association, which is clothes and food shops, enhanced and made more businesslike. Advisers from the French National Employment Agency ANPE were part of the process to recruit and assist the recipients, who simultaneously took training courses provided by partner businesses, the Champion and Intermarché supermarket chains.
But the Association's premises, located on the outskirts of Argentan and set up in a disused garage, needed refurbishing so that offices and work rooms could be put in.

Secours Populaire also acquired new equipment. The total expected investment was €45,000 and the Veolia foundation participated with a €22,000 grant.