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Guidance System in France – Introduction

What is characteristic of the French system is a great diversity of the services providing information and guidance. The benefits of this situation are a wide range of techniques, of practices, of practitioners and a large number of guidance providers all over French territory. But what is missing is a certain coordination and harmonization at a national level, which means for the user a lack of visibility.

In order to change that, since January 1st, a new law organizes the regional guidance public service “le service public regional de l’orientation (SPRO)” which responds to user’s expectations while taking account to economical development areas. The State defines at a National level guidance policy regarding pupils and students at schools and universities. The region coordinates actions of others organisms inside the regional guidance public service and sets up the “conseil en évolution professionnelle”. The region has an information role and put in place the network regarding the “validation des acquis d’expérience” (accreditation of prior learning).

Even if other ministries are involved as the Ministry of Higher Education and Research and to a lesser extent Ministries of Youth and Agriculture the main guidance providers are run by two Ministries, the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Employment. Guidance services depending on the Ministry of Education are targeting post-primary schools, higher and further education institutions, roughly 515 guidance services (CIO Centre d’Information et d’Orientation) and a national information provider ONISEP (Office National d’Information sur les Enseignements et les Professions). The job is carried out by well trained practitioners such as guidance counselors called “ Conseillers d’Orientation Psychologues “ and non specialists, such as teachers. These counselors are working both in the educational institutions and in guidance centers.

There is also what we call MLDS (Mission de lutte contre le décrochage scolaire) which is a entity focusing on school drop outs.

In each university there is a guidance service called SCUIO (Service Commun Universitaire d’Information et d’Orientation).

The offices of the Ministry of Employment are in charge of the enquiries/information/guidance system for adults who are seeking for an employment or wish to retrain, move or develop additional skills. This provision is delivered by employment advisors through the countrywide network of national employment agencies (Pôle Emploi). Pôle Emploi agencies cater for all adults whether they are in or seeking for an employment, waged or self-employed.

Another network reporting to the Ministry of Employment is the one of employment centres (Maisons de l’emploi). Their purpose is to help the various agencies involved (local authorities, Pôle Emploi), to work more closely together on the basis of an area plan.

The national information centre for continuing training known as Centre INFFO is also under the umbrella of the Ministry of Employment. His task is to disseminate information to all those who work in continuing vocational training in the broadest sense.

Other bodies also offer vocational guidance and advice :

– At regional level, information about continuing vocational training is spread by training action, resource and information centres (centres d’animation, de ressources et d’information sur la formation or CARIFs). Financed jointly by the Government and the regions, the CARIFs have links with social partners and with public and private bodies involved in vocational training, and they supply information to people who work in training, particularly to local enquiry/information/guidance points. The CARIFs maintain up-to-date documentation on training provision at regional level. They offer a forum where trainers in a given region can meet and exchange ideas.

– Local offices (Missions Locales or ML) and enquiry/information/guidance points (permanences d’accueil, d’information et d’orientation or PAIOs) have been established since 1982 by local authorities. Their mains goals are to welcome, inform and guide youngsters (16-25ans) having social and workplace integration difficulties. They try to help them into their integration pathway and to access to lasting employment.

– Some training organizations include, as part of their work, guidance, advice and placement services;

– Some joint bodies managing training-insurance funds – as the Individual Training-Leave Management Fund (Fonds de gestion du congé individuel de formation or FONGECIF) – inform employees about their entitlements and advise them;

– Chambers of Skills and Crafts or some economic sectors have set up structures to develop guidance work;

– interinstitutional skills-assessment centers (Centre Interinstitutionnel de Bilans de Compétences CIBC) serve both employees and job-seekers who need to plan their careers;

– Private guidance centers and private press agencies such as L’Etudiant, Studyrama, offer information for secondary school and university students.

This wide range of information, guidance and counseling services has been shaped by differences in respect of the target group (school pupils, young people, adults, the unemployed, women, the disabled), the kind of service offered (individual counseling, skill audit, group or individual services, training, information), practitioners’ qualifications (counselors, psychologists, teachers, information providers, social workers), the status of facilities (public, private, voluntary, commercial, professional) and financing (state, local authority, joint organizations, enterprises, users)

Recent policy developments in the field of guidance in France

Policies regard all sectors concerned by lifelong guidance.

  1. Three years of sectorial initiative
    – 2007: A frame for the “socle commun de competences” (knowledge, skills, abilities) in compulsory school. Instructions of minister of education demand in 2009 activities for discovery of careers and training for children. In upper secondary schools (lycées) more time will is dedicated to guidance including best knowledge about careers and about technical and higher education courses. So secondary schools will participate as a part of the “public lifelong guidance service”
    – Law n°2007-1199 of aug 10th 2007 concerning autonomy and responsibilities of universities give them a mission of guidance and career service. They develop practices of skills-port-folios in order to help students to prepare their employability.
    – The law n° 2008-126 of feb 13 th 2008 concerning the reform of public employment service gives to new body (« Pôle Emploi ») the task to receive, inform, guide active people unemployed or employed.
    – several decisions related to youth conditions (coordination for dropping out, apprenticeship, solidarity (RSA) income for autonomy of unemployed young workers) resulted from the “livre vert pour la jeunesse” of High Commissioner for Youth in 2009.
  2. A Law (2009 promulgated on November 24th ) about Lifelong guidance and vocational training
    The law has created a « public lifelong guidance service » organized “to guarantee all people an access to free, full and objective information on occupations, training, certifications, job opportunities and remuneration levels as well as access to quality, networked guidance advisory and assistance services.”. The law also states the eligible structures participating in the public lifelong guidance service. All those bodies offer a range of services in a single place for all persons and provide :
    “1° full access to objective information on occupations, skills and qualifications required to practice, and training and certification arrangements, as well as the training bodies and the quality labels granted to the said bodies;
    “2° personalized advice to help people being able to make an informed choice of occupation, training or certification suited to their aspirations, their abilities and the occupational prospects associated with the foreseeable needs of society, the economy and regional planning and, where the occupation, training or certification envisaged concerns a specific guidance or assistance service provided by another body, to be suitably directed to this body.”
    The law plans an e-guidance service (“service dématérialisé”) in order to provide each person a first information or advice for guidance and training, and will lead them to bodies able to provide them convenient information and counseling about their professional pathways. This service may be funded by State, regions, and specific Funds managed by social partners
  3. Laws of July 2013
    Laws n°2013-595 of july the 8th and n°2013-660 of july the 22th strengthen guidance support and high school and university students. The first one “loi d’orientation pour la refondation de l’école” strengthen the possibility for high school graduates (whatever the king of diploma : professional, technological or general) to go on in undergraduate studies. At the same time, the “loi d’orientation pour l’enseignement supérieur et la recherché” withdraw a general frame for all students’ success whatever the field of study. These new disposition lead to a better harmonization between the three years before graduation (High school) and the three years after graduation.

Updated: 9th October 2015