Article written by both Sue Thomas and Carol Just

The Training Market in France and Equality for All

France’s ethos is equality in all things (….however, some are more equal than others) and access to adult training is no different. In 1971, a law was passed governing the sector « continued vocational training », which is co-financed by employers’ contributions, state and local authority participation and represents an annual expenditure of approximately 30 billion euros. Interestingly the idea isn’t new. In 1792, during the revolutionary period in France, Nicolas de Condorcet launched the movement of “lifelong education which should allow every citizen to be trained throughout his life”. One of the areas of labour law which has changed the most in the last 30 years is training law, and the laws governing continuing vocational training have developed by combining several objectives: professional integration of young people, social advancement and professional development of employees, training of job seekers, development of companies’ competitiveness. Today, every worker and unemployed person has the right to a certain number of hours training per year – the same number of hours for everyone whatever your job or your position in the hierarchy – paid for by public funds, and theoretically you can choose the training which is most appropriate to your present needs or future projects.

The Language Training Market.

However, the language training market for employees in French companies has recently suffered from major government reforms. In 2016, public funding of personal adult training was reduced and a new system introduced whereby an employee has to apply for and organise his/her own training (in the previous system the employee’s company organised it for them). On the other hand, many employment possibilities are only open to job-seekers on the basis of proof of their English language proficiency (e.g. putting TOEIC exam results on CVs). At the same time, the system of obligatory contributions from companies, in the form of a training tax, was completely reviewed, and many companies have since reduced their training budget or even stopped having one altogether, as there is no longer a legal requirement. This has resulted in a serious reduction in requests for language training, and many smaller language schools have closed or been bought out by bigger training institutions. So, undeniably, these reforms are negatively affecting both trainers and learners. Unfortunately, there’s more! In 2017, the powers that be made it a legal obligation for all training providers to obtain a quality certification called DataDock: a long, time consuming administrative procedure without which their clients cannot obtain public funding for their training. And from January 2021, we will all need to have obtained the Qualiopi certification to continue to benefit from joint and public funding.

Difficult times ahead

The last few years of reforms seem to be taking adult training towards a kind of institutionalisation where only the very big actors will be left on the market! However… maybe there is a light ahead for Neurolanguage Coaching. The present system aims to train more people for less money, but this isn’t going to work for professionals who need specific language skills in order to do their jobs efficiently, and we think that companies will come to realise that they need high-quality training which they will be prepared to pay for out of a different budget… but it’s going to take time to change mindsets.