HIGHER EDUCATION. Without a chance encounter on Internet, Traces Ecrites News might have overlooked an unusual institution which trains future business managers.

L'Ecole Supérieure des Technologies et des Affaires (ESTA School of Business & Engineering) runs a three and a five-year course, which develop three areas of professional skills: engineering, sales/marketing and management, a blend of scientific instruction and the art of selling.

If you are aware of the serious lack of high-flying technical salespeople in French industry, the importance of ESTA is easy to measure.

Unfortunately, ESTA is not well enough known; it is unranked and located in Franche-Comté, a region that few would be able to find on a map even though it is one of France's main industrial centres.

Jean Grenier Godard, Director of ESTA, has had an unusual career.

Who are you, Jean Grenier Godard?

A 50-year-old with an unconventional background. I've been a ski instructor, a primary school teacher, an advertising executive, a company director, a lecturer at Nancy II university, a teacher of business strategy and director of the Executive Center at the ICN Business School and, for the past two years, I've been managing the ESTA School of Business and Engineering in Belfort.

What has been special about ESTA's history?

ESTA was set up 26 years ago, by the Belfort Chamber of Commerce, when Fontaine airport was closed down following the decision to expand the Basel-Mulhouse airport. The school was the brainchild of several local manufacturers including Christophe Viellard (VMC group), who were eager to develop their export markets. For the next 22 years, ESTA remained under the auspices of  the Chamber of Commerce, then became a non-profit association in its own right with a budget of €2 million. The Board is composed of the Belfort Chamber of Commerce, the county authority, the Belfort city council and the Belfort-Montbéliard School of Engineering (UTBM - Université de Technologie de Belfort-Montbéliard).

Why are you recruiting new teachers ?

Following the changes in ESTA's status, out of the full-time staff of fourteen, eight members preferred to remain employees of the Chamber of Commerce. Consequently, we need to recruit five teachers at PhD level, a research professor and a modern languages teacher.

How do students obtain a place at ESTA and what do they study there ?

Over the five-year course, we train future business managers, a profile which is badly-needed in French industry. Our students work towards either a Master's of International Industrial Project Management (A2I), in partnership with the UTBM, or towards a Master's of International Business Development, in partnership with the Clermont-Ferrand Graduate School of Management. We recruit school-leavers with a Baccalaureat in science or engineering subjects through an entrance exam. Our difference lies in the diverse areas we cover: science, sales / marketing and management, not to mention the two compulsory languages, English and either German or Spanish. Students who have a two-year undergraduate degree in science or engineering, are able to integrate ESTA directly in the third year.

How important are industrial internships at ESTA ?

They are essential and begin with the first-year internship in industrial production followed by business-to-business sales in the second year. All ESTA students are required to spend six months in a sales department abroad in the third year, followed by the fourth-year marketing placement. Their final-year internship involves project management. Altogether, these internships give ESTA students 20 months of professional experience. This is vital to these future business managers who need to be flexible and responsive, and have an inquiring mind.

Why isn't ESTA better-known ?

On the one hand, ESTA does not feature on any of the grandes écoles league tables and, on the other hand, Belfort is in a region of France that many people do not know. This is surprising as the urban district of Belfort-Montbéliard has a population of 350,000 and boasts a rich industrial fabric. Consequently, ESTA is a little-known treasure which struggles to attract student applicants. However, thanks to our 711 alumni, things are changing. They are our best ambassadors as none are unemployed and all started their careers with annual salaries of at least €36,000. In most cases, these salaries have doubled within seven years. Another of our strong points is the affordable tuition fees: €4,150 per year for the first four years, and €5,600 for the fifth year.

How do you you intend to develop ESTA ?

This September we are opening a degree course for apprentice engineers. We are also hoping to conclude a partnership with the UTBM to develop our research activities. This will involve creating three chairs in urban transport, energy and sustainable housing. Finally, at the end of May, we hope to sign a cooperation agreement with the Neuchâtel School of Management.

Copyright: ESTA

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