1887

Vocational training and adult learning for better skills

France devotes a great deal of resources to vocational training for youths and especially adults, but the system is unduly complex and yields rather poor returns. The basic literacy and numeracy skills of many French adults remain weak in international comparison, with harmful effects on employment opportunities, wages and well-being. Access to basic skills training is poor for those who need it most, many of whom come from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds. Secondary vocational education and apprenticeship training still suffer from a serious image problem in the minds of French families, even though the latter have a good track record. The government has succeeded in ensuring that the number of apprenticeships is growing, but that is mostly due to those studying at the tertiary level or at least for a higher secondary diploma. The labour market outcomes of those with only shorter vocational qualifications are not good, and quality in that stream needs to improve. To do so better teachers and workplace trainers need to be attracted to the field, especially individuals who can better link practical experience and theoretical concepts. The financing of the adult training system involves complex collection mechanisms even following a major recent overhaul. Making further changes will have to confront entrenched interests, even if the use of the training levy to finance business groups and unions has now ended. The goal is to direct more training funds to workers in small firms who have the weakest skills as well as to jobseekers, but this might be more easily achieved by shifting the funding base from a levy on employers to fiscal incentives or direct subsidies. There remains a need to align responsibilities for adult training with corresponding control over funds. Workers are henceforth to be given personal training accounts in which they can accumulate rights to up to 150 hours of training. But the enormous number of providers and courses on offer calls for greater efforts to develop good guidance, evaluation and certification systems to ensure the training finally chosen is appropriate and of sufficiently high quality.

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