In France, initial vocational training can be provided in two ways, both of which involve periods of work based learning:

  • training is provided under an "apprenticeship contract" which is a private employment contract where the employee alternates between the company and the apprentice training centre (link to France 2 case study);
  • training is provided in a vocational school with mandatory periods of work based learning. In this situation the learner is a student rather than an employee.

In both cases, the employers have many roles including providing a placement which supports work-based learning; support for learners; training; and a contribution to the assessment of the trainees.

The acquisition of skills, competences and knowledge depends mainly on the work completed in vocational school but it also includes mandatory periods of training in the workplace. Students’ performance during work-based learning is taken into account when they are assessed for their vocational qualification. Time at work is between 12 and 22 weeks and depends on the purpose and level of the qualification, and on the specialisation.

To guarantee that the learner will be assessed accurately in the workplace, VET schools work in partnership with employers – this involves

Prior to the start of the learner’s placement

Any period of work-based learning is subject to an agreement which is signed by the VET school, the employer and the learner.

Each learner is assigned a teacher who is in charge of meeting the employer to:

  • explain the framework and content of the qualification being studied by the learner;
  • formalise and negotiate the objectives of the work-based training, agree the activities that will be undertaken by the learner, and agree the learning incomes which should be achieved by the learner during their time in the company;
  • explain the role of the tutor from the VET school (to support, train and assess the learner);
  • clarify how the learner will be assessed and how the outcomes of the assessment will be used and reported.

Once this information is finalised, it is included in the agreement.

During the follow-up and monitoring phases

The teacher assigned to the learner makes regular visits to the employer to meet the student and work-based tutor. This enables the teacher and work-based tutor to review the learner’s progress and adjust the activities or objectives if necessary.

At the assessment phase

There are two aspects of assessment during work-based learning:

  • the first is a formative assessment which occurs during the training. The tutor and the teacher who has been assigned to the learner assess whether the learning outcomes have been met. The tutor also prepares a report which evaluates the behaviour of the learner in a professional context (the ability to socialise, react to unexpected and complex situations, the ability to work in a team etc.). Work-based learning is a mandatory requirement as it enables learners to put into practice what they have learnt in their VET school. The assessment outcome is discussed with the learner as this helps each student to see what competences and skills they have acquired.
  • the second process is part of the certification requirements for the qualification. In each diploma, some skills and competences can only be assessed during a period of work-based learning. The conditions and objectives of this period of work-based learning are defined in the “national assessment standards” for each diploma. This second assessment is also jointly done by the learner’s assigned teacher and work-based tutor. This assessment is awarded a mark or grade and is shared with the learner at the end of their training.

These procedures are effectives because:

  • there is a national framework for the content of each vocational diploma (including a set of expected learning outcomes) and for the certificative assessment. The VET schools and the employers are required to follow these arrangements;
  • the VET schools have pedagogic autonomy and, with employers, design their own approach to guiding and assessing learners. This has led to the production of many supporting documents and examples which can be used by VET schools.

The reform of training for the vocational baccalaureate was based on studies, experimentation and consultation. It established that learners can obtain their vocational baccalaureate after three years of training rather than four. This reform also confirmed the importance of compulsory periods of work-based learning and led to an increase in their duration.

At a national level, in 2012, about 700,000 learners were prepared for a vocational diploma in the school system. Each learner completed a compulsory period of work-based learning.

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