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Developing Vallourec's core functions with the Expert Career program

10/01/2020 - Careers

For over ten years, Vallourec has been working to expand and develop the careers of our technical experts. This strategic initiative has three main objectives. It ensures that employees’ technical skills are continuously developed, it helps us retain highly skilled employees and it allows us to build bridges with the wider scientific and industrial community. 
Expert Career program
The Expert Career program has been specially designed to grow and reward employees with rare technical skills. It covers 14 fields, including steelmaking, rolling, heat treatment, non-destructive testing, threading, digital modeling, material science and more. 

Dedicated to employees with extensive technical knowledge, it offers a path for career development that isn’t focused on production management. The program helps us retain our brightest technical minds and give them the means—both in terms of time and research budgets—to continue developing their skill set. Today, there are more than 250 Expert employees who are on one of the four levels of the Expert Career track. 

Expanding the scope

While it was originally created for employees in Research and Development (R&D), over the last few years, the program has been expanded to include employees with highly developed technological skills, working in the production environment. 

This is essential to ensure that innovations from R&D labs can be successfully transferred to the shop floor within budget and within an acceptable time frame. 
Development

Meaningful innovation in an industry like ours should be based on both product and process. If product engineers and process engineers aren’t working together from the beginning, you get to a certain point and realize that the product can’t be made, or is too expensive. Most companies fail not in research, but in development and speed of implementation.

Michael Kan Performance and Technology Director and Level IV Expert

Building a personalized career path

The application process is driven by employees themselves, who can verify that they are eligible for the program online. 

After discussing their professional development plans with their manager and local HR, they then submit a nomination application. The application covers their skills and knowledge and requires a personalized development plan for continuing to grow their expertise, as well as input from a sponsor in their field. Juries, composed of the field sponsor, R&D experts, internal clients, quality managers, industrial managers and HR managers, evaluate the applications. Final decisions are announced at the end of the year.  

For those awarded the Expert Career level, Human Resources (HR) teams ensure their compensation and employment index are at the right level. From an R&D perspective, the program is essential.
Skills

The program offers many benefits to employees. They become part of a community and are recognized for their skills, for one. It ensures they will be able to continue developing their skills, for another. And it aligns their compensation with their skills. Experts are precious. If we can’t show them a path to an interesting professional life, we risk losing them to the competition. That would be a tremendous loss.

Christian Zinkler Director of Human Resources
Experts

Technical experts need dedicated resources to continue their development. If you are on a management track, you don’t have time for your own research, or to work with academic or industry partners or otherwise develop your expertise. This program ensures experts have the time and support to continue developing. Indeed, having a clear development plan is an important part of the program.

Jérôme Peultier Director of Research and Development

Developing core functions and processes

Above all, says Christian Zinkler, Vallourec’s core functions as a manufacturer of steel tubes must be continually developed. 

“As I was reading the 80-plus applications this year, I was impressed to see how many people in the company are working on our core processes and core products. Steel tubes look like a commodity, but they are a high-end technology that require talent development. Our core functions are essential and must continuously be expanded.” 

The Expert Career program ensures Vallourec’s expertise is recognized outside of the company as well. “Thanks to the credibility and documented expertise of our technical specialists, Vallourec partners with academic institutions, regulatory authorities and industry experts,” explains Christian Zinkler. 
Recognition

This type of recognition, combined with the internal recognition and compensation, helps us retain our highly-skilled employees. With Expert Careers our technical employees know their contribution is valued.

Christian Zinkler Director of Human Resources