“Brotherhood”, a job well done, rituals… Who really are the Compagnons du Devoir?

At 29, he has already traveled well, packing his bags in Angoulême, Tours, Mulhouse and Lille before landing in Rennes a few months ago. More enduring than a cyclist, Andy Lafenetre has been involved in a Tour de France for six years now. A must for this companion who, after having been an apprentice and then an aspirant, now manages the house of Compagnons du Devoir in Rennes as provost. In this place, which opens its doors to the public this Saturday as everywhere in France, Andy Lafenetre supervises 300 young people who have come to train in crafts, construction or industrial technologies. Among them, 75 young people live year-round on the site, sharing lessons, meals, evenings and weekends with their fellow students.

This is the case of Marine, 21 years old. After obtaining a CAP joinery manufacturing in La Rochelle, the young woman has been following a installer-installer training since September with a view to obtaining a professional patent. Having become an aspiring companion following an adoption ceremony, “Béarnaise”, her surname in reference to her region of origin, will then leave to perfect her skills in the four corners of France, changing cities and companies every years. “It’s not easy every day because you’re far from family and friends,” she admits. But it’s exciting from a professional point of view because we continue to train constantly, it opens up a lot of opportunities. And we also enrich ourselves personally because the Compagnons du Devoir is above all a state of mind. »

An association that cultivates its traditions and its secrets

Renowned for the excellence of its training in manual trades, the workers’ association, which officially came into being in 1941, cultivates its traditions and its secrets. A share of mystery that has sometimes earned it the comparison to a sect or a religious movement. “It’s true that we have cultivated this taste for secrecy for a long time, assures Andy Lafenetre. But we are now opening up more and more. »

As in any initiatory society, the Companions of Duty have their own rules. Or rather values ​​that every companion must integrate. “Brotherhood, generosity, community life, discipline and patience”, sums up Andy Lafenetre. A framework that did not scare Margot, 19 years old. “On the contrary, I appreciate this fraternity that exists between companions, we exchange a lot between us, it’s a bit like a family”, indicates the young girl from Lille, an apprentice in masonry after a first training as a pedorthist.

Nearly 11,000 young people trained each year

In addition to know-how, we also come to seek interpersonal skills from the Companions. “It’s a way for young people to discover themselves and flourish,” says Andy Lafenetre. When I first arrived I was shy and withdrawn. I have since learned to get in touch with others. »

At the Compagnons, however, not everyone aspires to complete a Tour de France and be adopted by the community. Many young people thus come only to follow a training course before setting out again in the traditional life. Last year, around 11,000 students learned a trade with the Companions, which have around forty houses throughout France. “We have doubled our workforce compared to 2015 but we are now trying to stagnate”, underlines Andy Lafenetre.

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