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Abdul Malik, L’Industreet Project Manager

I started with a blank canvas: we had to find a location, build a campus, create the legal structure to go with it, develop the training programs and recruit a team. We had to immediately run several projects at the same time. So I took a dynamic project management approach, splitting projects into sub-projects, keeping them all spinning at the same time and then bringing them all together again. All sub-project managers worked on their respective plans and then, every week, I looked at the progress made with the different contributors: where we stood, who needed what information, etc. I stuck with the approach right through to the end. The challenge was getting everyone onboard. I had to convince the different stakeholders and get them interested. It took a lot of drive and commitment to federate them all around the project.

When it came to recruitment, what was immediately obvious was that we needed a profile like Safia Tami – someone who knew the nonprofits, the local job centers and the problems linked to youth employment. At the same time, it was vital that we find the right person to head up the campus over the long term; someone with the necessary managerial, financial, technical and teaching skills, who had experience in youth inclusion – in short, someone who could do just about everything, and who also had experience in training. Olivier Riboud, who worked with the Veolia campuses, joined us to take on this fantastic challenge.

The site we chose was a brownfield. There was a bit of grass, some crumbling buildings and nothing else. The ground had to be cleared and excavated in order to flatten the terrain. When we started, it rained and rained. We had to run several pumps and stabilize the soil. While Olivier Riboud, Managing Director of L’Industreet, began work on the teaching programs, we got started, together with the architects and program managers, on defining the needs of the site.

We had to really tackle each subject in-depth, but also make sure we were able to take a step back when it was needed so that we never lost sight of the end goals. As there was no precedent for this type of project, no one could really say whether or not it would be a success. Each decision had to be arbitrated from a technical standpoint to make sure we were headed in the right direction. We had our instinct, telling us “yes, that’s the way to go,” but we also had our doubts.

My biggest challenge was defending the idea of a new building that was four times bigger than the one planned in the initial specifications. To start with, we’d envisaged 3,000 square meters for 50 trainees. But when we visited the old factory sites at Christofle we fell in love and understood the dimension that this project could really take. Driven by a vision over the longer term, we set out to convince 90% of the people who told us that it was too expensive, would take too long, was too big and that we were never going to make it. The idea was to look ten years down the line and change the scale of the project. Now the campus will accommodate 400 young people, making it fit for the challenge that youth employment represents for society today. 

My role as L’Industreet project manager came to an end in September 2020, but I still follow the progress of the campus very closely. Olivier Dépraz, at Total’s Civil Society Engagement Department, has been charged with the heavy but exhilarating responsibility of taking over. He has an important part to play alongside the L’Industreet team in order to complete crucial stages, including selecting and enrolling the first trainees, making the final touches to the campus and handing over the keys.

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