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Post-crisis: New opportunities for clean and resilient mobility

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Open letter from the President of ESTACA

The economic situation following the health crisis has obviously raised many questions and concerns. The market has been particularly seriously affected in the aeronautics and automotive sectors. However, it is important to remember that the transport sector has been through crises before and has always recovered successfully. ESTACA is in constant touch with its industrial partners and closely follows changing skills needs and future prospects. The school is already planning support measures for graduates who will be entering the jobs market in 2020 and 2021. In the longer term, the school is assessing the economic climate for younger students who will be joining the School soon. For them, job prospects remain favourable as the current crisis has also highlighted emerging needs for new technologies and new uses, on which the next generations of engineers will work.

Proximity to companies is in ESTACA's DNA. The school is working with its partners to evaluate the professions and sectors that will be impacted, those that will continue to recruit engineers and those that will experience new needs. A support system for young 2020 graduates will be offered, as well as a change in training according to the needs identified. The constant exchanges that ESTACA has with the professional community and its experience of past crises (2008 automotive crisis for example), mean it can envisage a serene future for the young people joining ESTACA today and who will be entering the jobs market in 4, 5 or 6 years’ time, depending on their level of integration.

The ESTACA curriculum, its projects and research laboratories are geared towards the themes of energy saving, improving air quality, new energies (hydrogen for example), reducing weight through the use of ecological and intelligent materials, autonomous and connected systems, digital technology, etc. The engineers it trains are therefore perfectly prepared for new job prospects that are emerging in the transport sector, in the short and long term.

Whatever the sector, the need for mobility remains essential, and even when the constraints and needs change, the transport sector will continue to develop. Not all sectors have been affected by the crisis in the same way. In the field of rail and guided transport, for example, Alstom, a manufacturer of trains, trams and metros, has not seen a fall in orders. Tender projects may have been postponed, but “no customer has requested a delay in deliveries”, recently declared its CEO Henri Poupart-Lafarge. For him, the current situation will benefit the rail sector, the crisis “will strengthen environmental awareness” and as a result, the appetite for clean mobility, he explained. In the short-term for example, the company is working to develop new “antibacterial handrails” for subways, trams and trains. Similarly, the SNCF is in constant touch with ESTACA and has confirmed a strong need for engineers in the coming months.

In sectors affected in the short term, such as the automotive industry, the medium-term outlook remains favourable for engineers who are prepared to keep pace with developments in the sector. For example, the plan unveiled by the French government on 26th May, provides for a 200 million euro subsidy to help with digitalisation, robotization and the ecological transformation of the sector; in addition, 150 million will be dedicated to research by companies in the sector. Future ESTACA engineers, who for the most part, when they graduate, will occupy jobs in Research & Development, will inevitably benefit from the investments that will be made to develop the automotive sector.

In aeronautics and space, the whole sector has not been impacted in the same way. The space sector has been less affected by the crisis because projects take place over long cycles. State aviation (military or civil defence for example) has not reduced its activity. Helicopters, business aviation and UAVs are also less affected than commercial aviation. While the respective economic weights are not the same, the dual nature of the sector is an asset to better weather the crisis. The crisis will also accelerate the need for skills to support the ecological and digital transition of the sector. The need to reduce operating costs, but also to limit greenhouse gas emissions, requires major changes in the design and architecture of airplanes and helicopters. These technological breakthroughs require new skills in on-board energy management, propulsion efficiency and lighter structures. The introduction of new digital technologies, particularly in maintenance, is also essential. ESTACA training is already focused on these issues. 

Finally, it should be remembered that the challenges and skills learned at ESTACA apply across all engineering professions. The diploma is universally recognised in the transport sector, and others. Many alumni take their careers in other directions. The job prospects for a graduate therefore remain excellent.

Ludovic Busson, President ESTACA