Validation of acquired experience in companies
The Delors law in 1971 and the legislative modifications that followed it introduced continuing vocational training as an independent area of labour law. Subsequent reforms profoundly altered the French training system. In particular, the changes established the individual’s right to training as a national obligation and introduced new training options for employees, based on the existing established equal funding system. It was possible, for instance, for employees to receive training outside working hours. Furthermore, professional sectors gained an important role in the new continuing vocational training system. Key objectives of these reforms were to hand over some of the control of personal qualifications and competences to employees themselves, allowing them job mobility across sectors. Rather than being employer-driven, such a system puts the employee at the centre of all decisions regarding his/her own training paths and career progression routes.
The vocational training sector has become the place where training policies are devised and implemented for employees. It sets guidelines for the development of training and the allocation of corresponding funds. In general, companies must allocate a budget for the continuous training of their employees. The budget, for companies with 20 and more employees, should be equivalent to at least 1.6 per cent of their payroll. Each year, employers must formulate a training plan and should seek the advice of the work council. The plan consists of details of the company’s future goals and associated training needs, and also takes into account the company’s obligation to ensure the ability of its employees to remain employed.
As a result of this restructuring of the vocational training sector, there has been, for instance, an increase in the use of professional training contracts – a system that has served to create on-going courses designed to confirm employees’ commitment to their roles in their jobs and advance their careers. The individual entitlement to training is also becoming better known among employees.
Procedures and processes
The process of VAE in companies or through training providers follows the general framework for VAE procedures existing in France which basically comprise five steps:
- The first phase comprises consultation, information, and guidance.
- The second phase is when the application of the candidate conforms to the legal and administrative rules.
- The third phase comprises the preparation of a dossier of evidence usually with the assistance of an advisor.
- The fourth phase is when the VAE board of examiners evaluates the application.
- Finally, the VAE board assesses the candidate’s claim and provides feedback on his/her future pathway. In cases where the board instructs the candidate to further develop his/her project and to complete the certification process, it will also monitor his/her progress.
Companies integrate VAE into businesses’ overall skills management policies. Some companies use it in their management plan to ensure employability of their employees in the face of ever-changing job profiles, increase of professionalism, and the need to facilitate internal mobility and support career progression. Others use VAE to increase the company’s attractiveness for the recruitment and retention of employees. VAE is also implemented as an element of the business’s social policy to retrain employees.
Outcomes and ways forward
VAE is a key factor in recognising learning gained through work experience, different forms of prior learning, and community and voluntary activities. It gives greater visibility to acquired knowledge and skills and encourages businesses to define the skills they expect. It lays out career paths more clearly in the form of nationally guaranteed qualifications (National Qualifications Framework), emphasising skills that are useful on the labour market, taking into account all stakeholders’ interests. It improves workers’ employability and encourages individuals to engage in lifelong learning. It encourages mobility by recognising a pathway of progression. Finally, it is an essential factor in career security for all those who experience a change in their job profiles, professions, or within industry and service sectors.
Despite the benefits of VAE, access to lifelong learning in companies is mostly provided to those with a good educational background and/or those holding positions with a certain level of responsibility. The pattern that emerges shows that the demand for VAE is highest within a relatively small range of professions, mostly in the traditional care and administrative work sectors, held usually by those who require a diploma in early childhood education, or are required to work as assistants to the manager. In 2013, the most demanded diplomas represented only four per cent of the over 700 qualifications listed in the National Directory of Vocational Qualifications (Répertoire National des Certifications Professionnelles, RNCP).
Similarly, continuing education, as it is currently organised, does not address all the challenges of the European Union’s aim of creating a knowledge society as laid out in the Lisbon Strategy. Other challenges that remain to be tackled are the high rates of unemployment. The second part of 2013 aimed therefore to arrive at a new agreement through collective bargaining (between government and social partners) to address these challenges and to especially direct training to those who are traditionally underrepresented and help companies to gain more qualified employees.
Likewise, new measures to provide stability and security of careers were launched in the aftermath of the financial crisis that has affected France since 2008. One of the ways forward has been to set up the Joint Fund for Career Security (Fonds paritaire de sécurisation des parcours professionnels, FPSPP). It came into effect through an agreement negotiated between social partners and the state in 2008, and became law in November 2009. The law provides for workers who have been laid off to keep the individual training rights they had acquired – the so-called ‘portability’ feature – which they can use either while unemployed or in their next job.
Source: UNESCO UIL