In 2015, the French government introduced an entitlement of up to 150 hours of free tuition with paid leave from work for all those active in the labour market. Workers had to select from a wide range of approved courses, all of which had to lead to the award of a recognised qualification. The system has been tweaked since then, but the compte personnel de formation (CPF, personal training account) system now seems to have settled down.
The Ministère du Travail has now released the list of certificates taken most frequently by workers in 2017 using their CPF. The top five are:
- Test of English for International Communication
- BULATS Business Language Testing Service
- Certificat de connaissance et compétences professionelles, which largely assesses existing learning
- Passeport de compétences informatique Européen, known elsewhere as the European Computer Driving Licence
- TOSA, a test which allows you to assess your computing and digital skills
The first thing to say is that these are mainly tests or examinations. The routes by which people progress towards the certificates will vary enormously, but as the CPF gives you paid leave to learn, presumably they will involve attendance at courses of some kind.
Second, two topics stand out: the importance of language and computing are both very clear. Both can be understood as involving skills and knowledge that workers hope can help protect employment security at a time of globalisation and tech change. Of course, other topics also attract large numbers of participants: specialist driving certificates and a mandatory management qualification make it into the top ten.
So far, the CPF seems to have been free from the misuse that scuppered Individual Learning Accounts in England. Central regulation of approved qualifications clearly has some benefits. Looking at these topics, though, it seems very likely that the CPF is being used to fund training that would have taken place anyway, or is even producing more people with some qualifications than the labour market requires. Finally, I’m not clear how the CPF impacts on equity and inclusion; if it has positive effects in this domain, then that can be set in the balance as well.