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France: series of reforms to transform vocational training

A far-reaching series of reforms to the training system was instituted by the Government in the last quarter of 2017, aimed at vocational training, apprenticeship and work-based training.

The reforms are aimed at bringing about a systemic transformation, interconnecting with others since the last presidential election: reform of the Labour Code, already underway and aimed at building a more flexible labour market, as well as reform of the unemployment insurance system. An ambitious five-year skills investment plan (2018-22, PIC - Plan d’investissement compétences) will offer training to a million jobseekers and a million young people furthest from the labour market.

Reform of the continuing vocational training system has started with an initial series of negotiations between social partners, from November 2017 to February 2018. Any agreement reached could serve as the foundation for the law to be ratified thereafter, as was the case with previous reforms in 2014 and 2009.

The Ministry of Labour has charted a roadmap of topics from which the social partners will be able to create the new system. One of the key points in the negotiation is the future of the personal training account scheme (CPF, Compte personnel de formation). The Government wishes to establish a CPF system, easier to use and offering a wide range of training options to potential users. It also suggests CPF as a single training entitlement for all individuals, including long-term professional conversion training currently governed by another system (the individual training leave); this move raises questions about employees’ future right to compensation while away from the office for training.

Social partners are also invited to redefine the scope of the term formation (training) used in legislation governing company training plans (plans de formation); currently, training plans are initiated by the employer, after consultation with employee representatives, to support the employability and upskilling of their employees. If agreed, the training plan definition will include not only the training action, but also the initial steps (identification of training needs and creation of individualised training paths) as well as post-training support. Negotiations should aim at taking into account different forms of training, such as distance and blended learning, rather than only traditional learning in classrooms.

A quality assurance system will need to be developed, and could be built around a labelling system for training institutions.

After the negotiation, a reform bill for the continuing vocational training system is expected in April, with ratification by the Parliament to follow in summer 2018.

Alongside this, coordination among the social partners and the regions has been set in motion, aimed at developing internships. ‘Our aim is to change the image of internships as well as reform it in-depth, taking it to a new scale and shaping it into a path of excellence and success for all young people’, explained Minister of Labour Pénicaud. Following these discussions, a bill is expected for April 2018.

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