The main change in national education diplomas is the implementation of blocks of competencies.


This implementation has taken place gradually since the Law of 5 March 2014, which authorised the creation of blocks of competencies.


Decrees made changes to the EQF Levels 3 and 4 professional diplomas, effective from the start of the 2016 academic year. (CAP Decree 2016-772 of 10 June 2016, Vocational baccalaureate Decree 2016-771 of 10 June 2016).


  • The vocational diploma consists of units of competencies (blocks of general competencies or blocks of professional competencies).


A block of professional activities (made up of one or more activities) that are important to the target jobs and professions corresponds to a block of professional competencies, which in turn corresponds to a certification unit. Each block is therefore evaluated.


Since these decrees in 2016, adult candidates who choose to sit only part of the diploma examinations receive a certificate issued by the chief education officer (recteur d’académie), recognising the acquisition of the blocks of competencies corresponding to the units/examinations they have validated.


As of the 2020 examination session and pursuant to the Decree 2020-726 of 12 June 2020 amending the provisions of the French Education Code concerning the recognition of the acquisition of blocks of competencies for five vocational diplomas, students and apprentices who have followed the initial training for these EQF Level 3 and 4 diplomas, and who have failed the examinations for these diplomas but have nevertheless validated a particular block of competencies constituting the diploma, will also receive certificates confirming that they have met the requirements for the blocks they have obtained panels. This certificate has no designated level.


For candidates, blocks are obtained for an unlimited period of time. In the event of a change in the diploma, correlation tables may be drawn up.


– The diplomas are national and therefore valid in all regions, but this does not prevent them from being adapted to regional or local.


– Since 2014 “ Campus des métiers et des qualifications” (Campuses of Trades and Qualifications)  have been created. These structures bring together, at the regional level, the resources provided by the regional councils and institutions of the Ministry of National Education and Higher Education, in order to promote the fluidity of learners’ pathways concerning occupations in innovative professional sectors. These Campuses of Trades and Qualifications have gradually been opened up to businesses and further education.


– In 2018, the Minister for National Education launched a transformation of the vocational pathway in order to increase the attractiveness of this training pathway. This transformation relies on the mobilisation of several levers, such as: better links between vocational and general education, greater complementarity between apprenticeship-based and academic pathways, more personalised pathways.



The various reforms that have taken place have had the following consequences:


  • Making higher education programmes part of a lifelong learning programme, especially in the context of initial training, but also as part of work-study training (apprenticeship and professionalisation contracts), in further education and through the RPL scheme;
  • Improving the clarity of the competencies and learning outcomes certified by the national bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees (development and implementation of the new training framework);
  • Facilitating guidance for students and making it easier for them to change direction during the course of their studies;
  • Placing the emphasis on professionalisation during the course of studies (for bachelor’s degrees, in particular, the emphasis has been placed on opportunities to enter professional life immediately after obtaining this degree, whereas bachelor’s curricula previously tended to encourage students to continue their studies by enrolling on master’s degrees with a research or professional orientation);
  • Finally, in view of the demand and changes in the labour market, a new type of diploma has been created: the professional bachelor’s degree awarded by IUTs. This is a Level 6 degree: the University Bachelor of Technology (Bachelor universitaire de technologie – BUT);
  • Changes in regulations have led to the individualisation of learners’ programmes according to lifelong learning principles and have also led to a greater emphasis on professionalisation in university degree level qualifications.


Since 2014, national diplomas at university degree level (bachelor’s, professional bachelor’s, master’s) have been listed according to a classification of specialisms, which enables the definition, at national level, of the competencies of students holding a specific degree specialism.


The descriptions of degrees were defined more precisely by two decrees published on 30 July 2018, which respectively describe a “national training framework” leading to the awarding of bachelor’s, professional bachelor’s and master’s degrees and, more specifically, the organisational procedures for the bachelor’s degree. The text creating the new framework also describes degree courses based on the acquisition of ECTS credits, in accordance with the Bologna Process.


The new organisational structure of degrees incorporates academic support measures for people undergoing initial and further training, to enable their progressive specialisation and to bring their training projects into line with the knowledge and competencies they acquire.


Universities should be involved in the guidance phase before students make their final choice of study programmes prior to entering higher education, and should take part in student information, guidance and reorientation schemes. Institutions must now also establish bridging solutions and integration mechanisms designed to help students enhance their programmes or choose different courses, either at the same institution or at a different one. They must also facilitate the recognition of their students’ prior learning, even if they do not obtain the full degree, by issuing a certificate validating their acquisition of a proportion of the knowledge and competencies in the degree curriculum, which should be expressed in the form of blocks in the future.


The study programmes are divided into semesters, organised into blocks of knowledge and competencies, and also into teaching units. These are the learners’ training pathways, corresponding to the description of degrees in the form of blocks of competencies in the RNCP.




A series of laws reflected the desire to use vocational training as a lever to improve the management of human resources throughout life, and to help improve the forward-looking management of jobs and competencies. It reinforced the role of the National Register of Professional Qualifications RNCP as a reference instrument for the financing of training actions for the active population and for job seekers.A new register iwas created to raise the national profile of qualifications that are considered important for the job market, but which do not meet the criteria for awarding a level in the national framework because they do not correspond to the exercise of a profession (language skills, IT skills, etc.).


A new right – to “lifelong guidance” – reinforced the individual right to training, in which training rights are assigned to individuals, who retain them, even if they change jobs. This law has also simplified the financing of lifelong professional training.


  • Simplifying the vocational training landscape (clustering of professional branches);
  • Simplifying the framework for financing vocational training (for companies, a single contribution collected by the collection bodies (OPCA), with the abolition of the obligation to justify training expenditure for tax purposes);
  • Simplifying the procedures for access to the VAE scheme (reduction in the duration of prior professional practice required for applicants);
  • Implementing quality assurance procedures for training providers (establishment, in 2014, of a body responsible for implementing the Recommendation on the quality of vocational training, and the obligation for funders to ensure that the training providers they finance can provide high-quality training;
  • Developing a quadripartite system of governance for vocational training (State, regions, social partners, employees and employers).


The law of 5 September 2018, which created the new French qualifications framework reinforced the measures of quality and regulation in order to adapt the French system to the major transformations experienced through digital and robotic revolutions, emergence of an economy taking much more care over its use of resources.


To facilitate these transformations, the Government introduced far-reaching changes into employment and professional training, including the initial and further education professional training system.


The system was simplified not only for companies but also for individuals (see chapter on apprenticeships), and also regulated. In the context of professional training, this resulted in a synergy of the different training pathways (initial and continuing).


The definition of training (in the context of lifelong vocational training) is now redefined and expanded as follows:


Training is an educational pathway enabling the learner to achieve a professional goal “… and which can be carried out either in total or in part, remotely or in a work situation”.


The law defined 4 types of lifelong vocational training:


  • Training schemes;
  • Competency assessments;
  • Schemes providing VAE;
  • Training through apprenticeships.


In lifelong professional training, the law explicitly included the importance of “action for workplace learning” (action de formation en situation de travail – AFEST).


A new institution -France compétences- was created in order to improve the quality of VET financed by public pooled funds. This public institution is responsible for the implementation of the French qualification system via the national register of professional qualifications (RNCP), and the specific register RS, which are the main references for the use of the funds of the ILA system, called in French “compte personnel de formation”. France compétences is also in charge of the quality of VET.



In France, work-study programs include two types of contracts: the contrat d’apprentissage (apprenticeship contract) and the contrat de professionnalisation (professionalisation contract), which both address the same aims of enabling the acquisition of competencies and providing a qualification that combines working in companies with theoretical training.


The apprenticeship contract is strongly regulated by laws and regulations under both the French Labour Code and the Education Code, although the Law of 2018 gives the Labour Code a much stronger role in the regulation of apprenticeship.


An in-depth review of the apprenticeship contract system needed to be performed, in order to bring it into line with ordinary employment contract law and therefore facilitate the recruiting of young people under an apprenticeship contract. The apprenticeship is the best-known way for trainees to acquire skills in companies during a training program, but it is not the only one. Internships in companies have become a compulsory part of training (see Annex 3 The corporate sector’s role in training).


Recently, legislative changes were made to the apprenticeship system in the general context of tackling mass unemployment in France. Their aim was to facilitate and encourage access to this system and to allocate the resources required to fulfill its main vocation: ensuring the employability of young people.


The statistics speak for themselves: in the seven months following the end of an apprenticeship contract, 7 out of 10 apprentices find a job, 60% of which are on permanent contracts. Another observation: in European countries with a low youth unemployment rate, 20% of young people in the same age group obtained a qualification through work-linked training, at a time when the apprenticeship access rate in France was only 6%. As a result, on 31 December 2017, 22.3% of young people aged 15 to 24 were not employed in France. This rate stood at 16.1% in the European Union. The development – both quantitative and qualitative – of apprenticeship training aims to promote access to qualifications for young people and their integration into employment.




Transfer of the governance of the apprenticeship system to professional sectors of industry, supported by 11 OPCOs (Competency Operators) – bodies created by the Law of 2018, which are responsible for financing apprenticeship, assisting sectors of industry with the creation of professional qualifications, and helping small and medium-sized enterprises to define their training needs.


The sectors of industry set the costs of training programmes carried out in apprentice training centres, including education, and they ensure pedagogical supervision.


Indeed, apprentice training centres (CFAs) are the only organisations accredited to train apprentices. CFAs may also be private or Chamber of Commerce and Industry-run education organisations, public or private secondary schools, and universities. Since 2018, private companies have also been allowed to establish CFAs. Therefore, the cost-per-qualification-taken rule, called the “contract cost”, is the same for all organisations.

Apprentice status draws closer to the realm of ordinary labour law:


  • Companies can dismiss apprentices, as it is the case for all employees although dismissal remains highly regulated;
  • Apprentices may resign;
  • The age limit for access to the contract has been extended to 29 years of age and sometimes beyond.


Deregulation of training provision:


  • Removal of administrative restrictions on offering apprenticeship places (e.g. administrative authorisation at regional level for the creation of a CFA).


Financial assistance:


  • For employers with fewer than 250 employees signing an apprenticeship contract associated with a diploma or a vocational qualification at baccalauréat level or below;
  • Exemption from social security charges;
  • Assistance with financing an apprentice’s driving licence, with teaching, board and lodging costs, costs linked to the international mobility of apprentices, and costs linked to initial equipment purchases.


The role of the Apprentice Supervisor (maître d’apprentissage) has also been clarified and strengthened. He or she must be an employee of the company hosting the apprentice, possessing the necessary qualifications and experience. Apprentice supervisors must support and train apprentices during their working time, make themselves available to answer apprentices’ questions, and monitor their progress at the CFA. They must be capable of evaluating the acquired skills and cooperating with the CFA to monitor the learner’s progress, while acting as a link between the two training locations. The conditions of access to the role of apprentice supervisor must be laid down as part of a collective sectoral agreement.