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Interview: Laurent Bléron, director of ENSTIB

Une personne en train d'écrire sur une feuille de papier

The École Nationale Supérieure des Technologies et Industries du Bois (ENSTIB) is a major player in the future and innovation of the wood industry. We asked Laurent Bléron, director of ENSTIB, a few questions to find out more about the school’s success and its objectives for the coming years.

Can you introduce yourself? What is your background?

I graduated as an engineer from ENSTIB (École nationale supérieure des technologies et du bois) in 1997. I obtained a PhD in wood science from the University of Nancy 1-Henri-Poincaré in 2000, and a HDR (habilitation to direct research) from the University of Limoges in 2011. My research work focuses more specifically on the behavior of assemblies and the valorization of hardwood species.

I started my career with a post-doctorate at the Bernese University of Applied Sciences in Biel (Switzerland) in 2000, then joined the School of Arts and Crafts in Cluny as a lecturer for 11 years. I then led a specific research axis around the mechanical grading of wood and the detection of defects on lumber and veneers in order to predict mechanical qualities. I have been a university professor at ENSTIB since 2012, which I have been directing since September 1, 2017. Previously I was the assistant director of this school since 2012 as well as the director of studies of the school for 2 years.

What brought you to work at ENSTIB?

ENSTIB is a young school, very dynamic and always creative. It is also the possibility to work on an exciting project: what is the place of wood in the technological future. The training I received allowed me to be able to practice the professional activity of a teacher-researcher that I dreamed of. Today I had the opportunity to give back to the system what I had received, that’s why I applied for the direction of this school.

What role does this school play in the wood industry and in the field of eco-construction?

ENSTIB is the only French public engineering school entirely dedicated to the forestry and wood sector, under the authority of the Ministry of National Education, Higher Education and Research. For 30 years, ENSTIB has been able to build a system that is unique in France, with a solid general education and courses that are specific and dedicated to wood and its applications. This training allows ENSTIB engineers to occupy positions of responsibility in design offices, methods, research and development, production, quality, etc. Among the students trained at ENSTIB, more than 90% of them work in the forestry-wood industry and more specifically in the sectors of construction, energy and environment, biomaterials, production and logistics for the wood industries. Moreover, we note today that nearly 50% of our graduates work in the field of wood construction.

What difficulties do you encounter on a daily basis in the exercise of your mission?

ENSTIB is located in Epinal, in the Vosges. This area is unfairly overlooked by prospective students. However, once they have settled in and enjoyed the exceptional nature and the cultural offer equivalent to that of many big cities, they are generally won over.

What successes can you look forward to?

The ENSTIB wishes to offer a device that is unique relying on a material both strategic and renewable that is wood. All this is done in the service of a societal, economic and environmental ambition. Our concerns revolve around “learning to learn”, with the objective of transmitting to our students the knowledge and work methods that are necessary for their professional future. I think that the school has succeeded in instilling a meaningful brand and in developing the responsibility of its students. Training tomorrow’s world citizens is also one of our objectives, as well as maintaining a high level of employability for our graduates. With an average time of 12 days to find a first job, we can affirm that our training courses meet the needs of industrialists and this is probably the school’s greatest success.

Do you notice a growing interest in this type of training? What do you think are the reasons for this?

Environmental awareness is probably one of the reasons why our students are so keen to consider a future in the wood industry. Many believe that this sector will be one of the solutions for achieving the objectives necessary for a low-carbon society.

Do you plan to open new courses in the coming years?

This year, we are opening a specialization engineering program whose objective is to train high-level specialists who are immediately operational in the design and dimensioning of large structures using wood for the most part (buildings, engineering structures, tertiary buildings, sports buildings, etc.). Three years ago, we opened our engineering degree to apprenticeship. We still have a few ideas but we want to first “break in” these courses before opening others.

Do ENSTIB graduates easily find a job at the end of their training?

Today the average time to find a job is 12 days. We can therefore say that our graduates easily find a job.

A big thank you to Laurent Bléron for answering our questions!

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