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In advanced pipeline engineering, the future is wide open

Given the choice between searching for a technician's job and being sought out for one, Guillaume Escala didn't hesitate. He chose a speciality full of opportunities, and training that gave him access to the largest companies in his field.

A certified qualification holds much greater value

This is what's called having a sense of direction. When Guillaume Escala started at college in Talence (Gironde), he already knew he wanted to become a qualified technician. There he discovered electronics, electronic engineering and in particular metalworking & welding - a field that especially appealed to him. Having earned his Industrial Science and Technology Baccalauréat, specialising in metal structure, there was no need to change institution to follow this up with a BTS technician certificate in sheet metal structures. He could have stopped his training there, but was keen to go further. "I went on to do a specialist degree in welding in Nimes, on a work-based learning basis." The key component: the IWT (International Welding Technologist) diploma, a key document recognised by certification bodies worldwide. At SPAC, a subsidiary of Colas specialising in the transport of energy, Guillaume worked on large gas lines. Back in Aquitaine, and after a few temporary assignments during which he discovered various industries, Guillaume was hired by a Bordeaux-based company as a welding preparer for nuclear piping.

Critical mass required

In this company of forty or so employees, Guillaume had several roles to play. It was a great opportunity for this inquisitive mind, always on the lookout for a new skill. "I was wearing four or five hats at the same time, it gave me a real boost!" In addition to supervising operations, he also provided support functions, including quality, safety, environment and working as a welding preparer and inspector. "I was involved in almost the entire chain of the operation." Above all, he became familiar with the specifications imposed by EDF. When the electrician sent a request for intervention, Guillaume studied the specifications and prepared a quality file describing all the welding specifications. This had to be validated by EDF so that the operational employees could start their work. The projects were small, like the company. They were three to four week assignments carried out by one or two welders. Guillaume knew that the bigger projects were reserved for large providers. "When I found out that Endel was looking for a welder to work on more advanced EDF sites, I applied. And I got the job." His projects went from 10-20 welds to something in the region of 1000 or 2000, with teams of up to twenty welders.

Precise and closely monitored work

As an ENGIE subsidiary, Endel maintains very substantial facilities, involving numerous experts. The preparation for this maintenance follows strict procedures. Every intervention planned at corporate level demands meticulous analytical and writing work on Guillaume's part. "I spend a lot of time on the computer, creating documents. There are many criteria involved: those of the company, those of the technicians, and those of the inspectors." In the very sensitive area of nuclear power, safety is a priority and the monitoring is constant. Not only does EDF require its suppliers to provide inspections at every stage, it also performs its own. Currently, Guillaume is working on the Paluel plant, on a very large steam generator replacement project. "We are working for Areva, which is working at the request of EDF. For every operation, there are more inspectors than there are technicians!”

Close monitoring

For welders, their every move is planned. "I do a site visit with the site manager to determine the technical solutions to be implemented, and ensure they are achievable. If the site is small, we have to find solutions for handling and access." Safety aspects are also taken into account. "We have to meet all the criteria in the specifications. It's pretty restrictive. To do two 3cm welds, we compile a 300-page document. Everything has to be planned so that the operational employee won't have the slightest question.”

After launching the project, Guillaume is in charge of monitoring it. A works monitoring document is systematically established. This key paper describes, step by step, everything that the workers will do and everything they have done since the site was opened right up to storage and cleaning.

Always on the move

Although Guillaume lives right next to Bordeaux, he is constantly on the move. It's a lifestyle choice, exciting but not always easy, especially when you're about to become a dad. "I often change environment, discover new sites, new teams. I love this constant sense of renewal. At Endel, we are fortunate enough to be very well organised." Ultimately, he would gladly trade in his office work for a foreman position to direct operational employees. For this he would need to work more on the ground, learning the ropes. He plans to discuss this during his next annual appraisal. "The advantage of a large group like ENGIE, is that a career change is always possible.”

Guillaume Escala