Reforming initial vocational education and training (VET) started in May 2018.

The changes will affect one-third of upper-secondary students (665 000) currently enrolled in the vocational stream to prepare a vocational baccalaureate (Bac-pro) or a vocational aptitude certificate (CAP).

According to national statistics, 35% of upper-secondary students enrolled in the vocational pathway (lycée professionnel) are still unemployed seven months after graduation. Employment rates for VET students vary significantly, depending on the type of programme chosen and vocational qualification achieved, from 16% for those having achieved a CAP in trade sales to 60% for those with a Bac-pro in the hotel/catering sector or in hairdressing-aesthetics. The reform aim is to match skill supply and demand better and raise the prestige of VET as a road to excellence, easing transition to work.

Aligning vocational education and training with labour market needs

The main axes of the reform build on recommendations from a recent report commissioned by the Ministry of Education:

  • revision of the range of training programmes offered, to lower the number of students enrolling in saturated career fields (such as management administration, one of the top three in terms of student numbers) and to offer more places in VET programmes preparing for jobs in demand (for instance, security or assistance to individuals);
  • stronger engagement of social partners in shaping the content of VET curricula in response to the changing nature of professions;
  • giving new momentum to the network of campuses of professions and qualifications (campus des métiers et des qualifications), which bring together secondary and higher education institutions, research institutes and companies. The aim is to turn them into unique learning places promoting innovation and know-how in pioneering fields, where partnerships with the regions and businesses can develop.
  • expanding apprenticeships in all vocational high schools, which alternate periods of classroom-based learning with in-company training.

Fostering academic success and professional integration for students

Career guidance is being strengthened in the vocational stream. In the first year classes are built around fifteen professional areas (familles de métiers) so students get an insight into a specific area of the economy; they only select their specialisation (from 100 occupation fields) in the second year.

Basic skills (French and mathematics) will be assessed in the first year of studies through a placement test to identify learning needs. General and vocational subjects will be better inter-connected; for instance, courses may be taught jointly in the classroom by the respective teachers (as in mathematics and mechanics). Project-based learning is encouraged; an individual or collective project (chef d’oeuvre) is an integral part of the Baccalaureate programme.

Career development support will also be stepped up, with two modules offered in the final year of studies for students to select from: the module insertion professionnelle for those wishing to enter working life; and the module poursuite d’ étude for those pursuing studies at higher level.

The pathways leading to a CAP will be more personalised, with a possible duration of one, two or three years depending on the students’ profiles and needs (compared to two currently).

The reform will be implemented gradually, starting from the 2018-19 school year.