Skilled crafts - employment and transfer of know-how Skilled crafts are the Grand Duchy's main employer, and the transfer of know-how plays a key role in ensuring its continued existence

Several occupations come instantly to mind when we think of skilled crafts: florist, potter, sculptor, or wrought-iron artist, for instance. Yet skilled crafts are present in many more areas of economic and social life than you might first think. Mechanics, personal care, civil engineering, food and communication are all areas in which skilled crafts are involved.

Thus skilled crafts occupy a considerable place in the economic fabric and play a key role in the creation of jobs in the Grand Duchy. In this context, the creation of new businesses and the transfer or take-over of businesses already in existence ensure the sustainability of the sector.

The leading employer in the Grand Duchy

The number of skilled craft businesses has been increasingly constantly since the 90s, and the number of jobs being created continues to grow too. With a total of 7,778 businesses, 98,040 employees and 1,764 apprentices, skilled trades were the Grand Duchy's leading employer in 2019, accounting for 21% of all employment. That means they play an important role in combating unemployment and offer real career prospects.

Nevertheless, several challenges need to be addressed in the coming years. Firstly, the gap between demand for employees and the number of workers resident in the Grand Duchy. In fact, 52% of the people employed in skilled crafts in the Grand Duchy live elsewhere. Although it shows that the sector is a vector for integration, there is still an urgent need of skilled labour if the sector is to remain competitive.

Secondly, the age pyramid of employees shows that more than 20,000 people will be retiring in the next ten years, and will therefore need to be replaced. 26% of employees in the sector are in fact over the age of 50, and they are key players in the transfer of know-how to the rising generation. The same is true of managers: in 2019, for instance, more than 1,100 heads of businesses were over 60 years old, and many were looking for someone to take over their business.

In this context, it is essential that there should be a suitable educational framework for acquiring not only technical and manual skills but also the skills needed to run a business. In recent years, the Grand Duchy has developed a number of training courses for a vast range of careers in the skilled crafts sector.

The Chamber of Skilled Trades and Crafts has moreover set up a business transfer scheme to bring together people wishing to transmit a business and potential buyers, thereby promoting the transfer of businesses and helping to maintain continuity in the sector.

Closer look at the transfer of businesses

The transfer of businesses is an essential aspect of skilled trades since it ensures the stability of the sector and hence the creation of employment. Many heads of businesses feel, as they approach retirement, that the time has come to look for a successor and to prepare that person for taking over the business.

We talked to two entrepreneurs who recently took over established businesses in their respective fields, and asked them to tell us briefly about it.

Anne Le Moigne – Tartefine Bio Luxembourg

Anne Le Moigne took over the Boulangerie Scott bakery, which has a reputation for the quality of its products and its organic manufacturing, in 2018. Rebranded as Tartefine Bio Luxembourg, the bakery has managed to take advantage of the long experience and skills, keeping on both its employees and the organic recipes which were its strong point.

1. Why did you take over the Boulangerie Scott?

We took over the bakery because it was a great business in the booming market for organic products. The former managers had based their development on innovation, and were pioneers in the field in the Grand Duchy. For us, it was important to take over a business that was financially sound and had considerable development potential.

2. How was the take-over implemented?

It was relatively straightforward, since the team in place had many years of experience and seniority in the business. The people in change wanted to retire. I think they are pleased to see that their business is continuing, and that passing it on has been successful.

Anne Le Moigne (left) took over the Scott Bakery in 2018 and the results are very positive.
© Tartefine Bio, all rights reserved

3. How do you view the experience?

We see it as something very positive, in both human and professional terms. During the first few months, taking over a business is harder than setting up a new business. It's a bit like starting a new job, finding yourself part of a new team. And it's the same for the employees, who are obviously concerned about the change. Everyone has their own habits and ways of doing things, and everyone has to go outside their own comfort zone to get used to one another. It's important to get the team on board and put some drive into the change. We have achieved a good increase in turnover, and invested in equipment for making progress with new projects.

Patrick Elsen – Menuiserie Kraemer

Patrick Elsen took over the Menuiserie Kraemer joinery business in 2018. Tradition, quality and skill are the main pillars of the business, which is still in the transfer process.

1. Why did you take over the Menuiserie Kraemer business?

I was looking for a business of a certain size with a structure for production and project management. I'm an engineer by training, and I've already worked in project management. My family has always been involved in entrepreneurship, so it's something I'm familiar with. In life, it's often all about being in the right place at the right time, and for the Menuiserie Kraemer and myself that seems to have been the case.

2. How was the take-over implemented?

We are still in the process at the moment, carrying out three projects at the same time:

  • I'm taking over the management;
  • we're meeting new partners in the construction sector;
  • we're building a new site in the ZANO industrial area [the Fridhaff industrial area of the ZANO inter-municipal syndicate].

3. How do you view the experience?

I can't really say, since we're still in the middle of the process. What I can say, though, is that we have taken over the everyday business and day-to-day management. There are pros and cons in not growing as a business or in a field of activity. But one thing is sure - a business that's uncertain about itself has a bleak future. Once future prospects and strategy have been defined, it takes some time to renew structures, change mindsets and make changes at every level.

© Menuiserie Kraemer, all rights reserved

The interviews have been edited for the purposes of the article.