Vocational Training at the Heart of Companies’ Challenges in Terms of Competitiveness and Employability

By: Sophie Pelicier Loevenbruck
Fromont Briens

2013 was the year of flexi-curity à la française, combining greater flexibility for employers in return for their increased responsibility in terms of employability of the workers in the labour market.

The June 14th, 2013 statute on employment securing significantly modifies our social model, especially in the sense that it reduces the scope of intervention of the regime of redundancy on economic grounds and related (cumbersome) procedures. Such a reduction was done in favour of an extension of the measures of jobs and skills management (“Gestion Prévisionnelle des Emplois et des Compétences”, also known as “GPEC”).

GPEC aims at reducing the gap between internal resources and the company’s needs, through occupational and geographical mobility measures. Therefore, occupational mobility is closely linked to vocational training, which appears to be more than ever at the heart of the employment relationship. It has also become a tool to leverage the employability of every single employee.

The statute on employment securing develops tools that constitute alternatives to redundancy that will be complemented by a reform of vocational training to come early 2014.

On this occasion, it appears interesting to briefly outline the system of vocational training in France, namely the employer’s obligation to train the workers that have already entered the labour market. Moreover, and as a part of their social responsibility, companies have been increasingly encouraged to participate to the integration of unemployed and young workers to the labour market.

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The current French vocational training system is based on three pillars:

–       a HR and Corporate Social Responsibility tool used to balance the companies’ competitiveness objectives and the employer’s goal of ensuring the employee’s employability ;

–       a training and financing obligation due by national and foreign companies based on a contribution of fiscal nature ;

–       a joint management (“gestion paritaire”) of vocational training funds, which places employers and trade unions from both the professional branches and interprofessional levels at the heart of training policies.

« Train or pay » that has become « train anyway »

The French vocational training law is governed by the following saying: “train or pay”. The vocational training system is designed so that the company has an obligation to contribute financially to the worker’s vocational training.

The amount of the employer’s participation in the financing of vocational training is equal to a percentage of the payroll of the company, which varies with the size of its workforce:

– 0.55% for companies with up to 9 employees;

– 1.05% for companies with 10 to 19 employees;

– 1.6% for companies with 20 employees and more.

Since the late 1990s, the training requirement has clearly separated from the obligation to pay to become a real obligation of the employer to train each of his employees. The right to vocational training is an individual right for the employee, as is regularly pointed out by the social chamber of the French Supreme Court (“Cour de cassation”), most recently in its judgment dated June 5th, 2013.

Actors

To carry out their vocational training policies, companies need to coordinate their actions with the activity branch to which they belong, as well as with the State. The matter thus requires a good understanding of the power issues as well as in terms of identifying the right interlocutor.

Vocational training, a tool for business competitiveness and employability

Vocational training in France therefore requires the companies to have a solid knowledge of the system, as they were faced with the consecration of a real obligation to train their employees, clearly distinct from their mandatory financial contribution, in a more and more difficult economic and social context. At the same time, the company’s control of its training policy is critical to its ability to develop alternatives to redundancy based on economic grounds, at a time where the acceptability of collective redundancies is being increasingly challenged by the society.

Today, companies are known to devote more and more resources to training, whether human or financial, explaining the creation of a Vocational Training Department here at Fromont Briens, insofar as the competitiveness of enterprises and the workers’ employability are more than ever linked to the workers’ training, which is now placed at the heart of the companies’ strategic challenges.

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