Purpose ‐ To describe and analyse the Compagnons du Devoir (CdD), a French Compagnonnage; that is, a labour brotherhood and a community of practice; and to identify the reasons for its success as a human resource development system (HRD). Design/methodology/approach
‐ A one-off case study of the CdD using data gathered by the authors in their capacity as members of a Conseil Scientifique evaluating a project to internationalise the CdD's approach to vocational education and training (VET). Primary sources include the UK apprentices who passed
through the system, and employees of the Compagnons du Devoir. Findings ‐ Much of the success of the CdD rests on its capacity to develop knowledge, skills, and savoir-être in young people through the volume of off-the-job training; near-peer and peer mentoring,
the systematic use of older and retired workers and the management of movement and change through a network of residential colleges. Research limitations/implications ‐ The research design is a single case study, whose primary data is cross-sectional, and based largely on data
gathered from UK rather than French apprentices. Policy implications include the importance of a training rich in culture and humanity for the training of young people. Practical implications ‐ These include the positive role of older workers in VET; the importance of off-the-job
training and mentoring; and the centrality of geographic flexibility in knowledge creation. Originality/value ‐ The paper is a case study of a French Compagnonnage from a managerial/HR perspective rather than those of labour history or sociology. It describes and analyses
the functioning of the CdD using the idea of the honour principle. The CdD's approach to HRD can be usefully contrasted with that offered by other national systems.