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Main providers


8.Adult education and training

8.3Main providers

Last update: 27 November 2023

Adult education and training – or "continuing vocational training" (CVT) according to the expression used in France – involves a whole range of different stakeholders (the State, the Régions, social partners, companies and training providers), all of whom have different roles to play in the way the system works.

Adult education and training providers

Since law no. 71-575 of July 16th, 1971, adult continuing training has formed an open market in which various service providers operate. This means that there are many training providers co-existing on the market – companies, public institutions, private organisations, non-profit associations – for some of which training is their main activity, while for others it is secondary, i.e. an activity on the side or to support the sale of a product.

In 2011, 18,101 service providers offered continuing training as their main activity, i.e. under a third of all these providers put together. And yet they achieved 63% of total turnover and trained 54% of trainees. The range of vocational training available in this sector is therefore highly fragmented. That said, three major categories of vocational training providers are usually distinguished (DARES, Analyses n°062 October 2013):

  • the profit-making private sector, which accounted for 54% of all providers in 2011, trains 52% of all trainees and achieves 49% of the turnover on the continuing training market. This includes independent training organisations as well as training organisations more or less directly affiliated with a professional sector or company. Indeed, the law allows companies to organise the training of their employees as they see fit, via direct agreement with a training organisation; they may also recruit their own training leaders to provide in-house training. Training in this case is funded by an OPCA tasked with collecting and pooling the contributions that each company must pay towards funding continuing vocational training ;
  • the non-profit private sector (associations, cooperatives, foundations, etc.), which accounted for 20% of providers, 27% of trainees and 26% of total turnover in 2011;
  • the public and broader public sector, which may only have accounted for 3% of providers in 2011, but whose turnover represented 22% of the sector's activity volume, and which trained 14% of trainees. This includes different types of organisations: GRETA, CNAM, CNED, AFPA, higher education institutions and professional chambers (see below).

Most organisations providing continuing training are small. The largest stakeholders are to be found in the public and broader public sector: the AFPA, as well as the GRETA network (see below), which represented 12% and 11% respectively of the continuing training market in 2011. We will therefore present the main characteristics of these stakeholders.

The GRETA Network

A GRETA is a group of secondary schools (lower and/or higher – i.e. collèges and/or lycées in France) which federate their resources, teachers and facilities around an agreement approved by the Chief Education Officer (Recteur d'académie), to organise adult continuing training actions. The GRETA network is a very important provider in the adult continuing training market. It was set up in 1974 to make the resources of the public training system available for meeting the training needs of employees, pursuant to the new general framework for continuing vocational training – département. Since GRETAs are groups of institutions, there are a total of 6,500 continuing training venues. Training provided by GRETAs takes place on the premises of collèges and lycées of the group. GRETAs are also increasingly offering online training. The GRETA is overseen by an inter-institutional board (CIE), and managed by a so-called "support institution", which must be a member of the group. The CIE determines the annual activity program and the participation of each institution in the collective action. Each local education institution then takes this decision into account in its school project.

The training leaders are either National Education teachers or training staff from the private sector when required by the technical nature of the training. The beneficiaries of training provided by GRETAs are: employees, who may work in the public or private sector; jobseekers, and anyone else looking to receive such training on a personal basis. The training can be put into practice and funded via existing schemes for continuing vocational training.

GRETA’s main fields of intervention enable the trainees to:

  • establish a professional project and determine a direction;
  • assess their skills;
  • acquire occupational training, prepare for a qualification, refresh their knowledge, acquire basic knowledge and skills;
  • learn foreign languages, enrol in qualifying modules;
  • benefit from support as part of the Validation des Acquis de l'Expérience scheme (VAE - Validation of Experience);
  • prepare for an admissions test into an administration or local authority;*train in information and communication technologies;
  • switch to a new type of job and get help in the search for employment.

In 2013, the Department decided to improve the coordination of GRETA action at local education authority level (académie). From the 2013-2014 school year, the Chief Education Officer (Recteur d'académie) must define a strategy - at académie level - for developing GRETAs in line with national and regional objectives.

Those GRETAs working within an LEA belong to this group, along with the State – represented by the Chief Education Officer – and the public institutions wishing to contribute to the adult continuing training sector with not-for-profit general-interest missions.

Association nationale pour la Formation Professionnelle des Adultes (AFPA)

The Association nationale pour la Formation Professionnelle des Adultes (AFPA - national Association for Adults' Vocational Training) is a public provider of adult vocational training leading to qualifications, supervised by the French Department for Work, Employment, Vocational Training and Social Dialogue. It receives public grants and is tasked with helping jobseekers to find work and employees to gain new vocational qualifications.

AFPA programmes are open to jobseekers and employees alike. They are certified by a vocational qualification awarded by the French Department for Labour, Employment, Vocational Training and Social Dialogue. For companies, the AFPA provides advanced training missions for employees, assistance with recruitment, and training in new technologies in the industrial or tertiary sectors.

As of 2013, the AFPA had 186 campuses, and provides services across France for: the public employment service, territorial authorities and companies.

Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers (CNAM)

The Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers (CNAM - National Conservatory of Arts and Crafts) is a top higher education and research institution in France. It was founded in 1794 with the aim of training national industry managers. Today, it is supervised by the French Department for Higher Education. Its headquarters are situated in Paris, but it also has at least one campus in each of the regions across France.

The CNAM carries out three missions: adult continuing training, technological research and innovation and disseminating scientific and technical culture. Its continuing training activities particularly involve setting up:

  • training courses outside of working hours leading either to national higher education qualifications: Diplôme Universitaire de Technologie (DUT - Technology University Diploma), Bachelor, Master, Doctorate, in some sixty subjects; or to other vocational certifications and qualifications listed in the Répertoire National des Certfications Professionnelles (RNCP - National Registry of Vocational Certifications);
  • courses eligible under the DIF (personal training right) in various professional fields;
  • "custom" training in line with the needs of the company in which the employee asking for the training works;
  • distance programmes;
  • a Validation des Acquis de l'Expérience (VAE; see section 8.5) service.

Centre National d'Enseignement à Distance (CNED)

It is also tasked with implementing distance courses in the context of lifelong learning. To that end, and unlike most of the other operators on the continuing training market, the CNED provides training corresponding to all education levels – including pre-primary and primary, right up to higher education.

The CNED's range of programs is split into several types:

  • programs that lead to school qualifications (ISCED 2 and 3) and higher education qualifications;
  • private tutoring for pupils and students;
  • courses to prepare for competitive admission examinations (for the civil service, for teachers or in the medical and social aid sector for instance);
  • vocational training courses in some fifteen subjects.

The CNED is also authorised, by its supervising Departments (for National Education and Higher Education and Research), to provide training for people with special needs. Finally, since the "Public Department for Digital Education" was set up in 2013 (law no. 2013 – 595 of 8 July 2013), the CNED has become a stakeholder in the strategy for developing digital technology at school, led by both Departments.

Higher Education Institutions

The 1968 guidance law on higher education introduced continuing training as a fundamental mission of universities for the first time. As a result, there is now a continuing training department in each higher education institution which prepares and implements the various training actions:

Training provided under the responsibility of continuing training departments is adapted to fit around employees' working hours: part-time courses, evening classes, etc.

Écoles Supérieures du Professorat et de l'Éducation (ESPE)

Since the start of the 2013 school year, the continuing training of teachers working at all levels of the education system (ISCED 0 to 5) as well as other educational staff has been provided by Ecoles supérieures du professorat et de l’éducation (higher schools of teacher training and education/ESPEs). ESPEs have been set up within universities by section 9.3 for further informations).

Professional Chambers

These include public economic institutions such as: chambers of commerce and industry, chambers of agriculture and chambers of trades and crafts. They represent before the public authorities the interests of companies from different economic sectors within a geographical area, and set up support activities. In this context, they also organise training programmes for adults. Such programmes are particularly designed for employees of companies that are members of these chambers and pay a tax to that end. They are aimed at training a workforce meeting local economic needs.