Adaptation, Qualification and Orientation Contracts


Many young people in France look forward to starting work and learning a trade, and the vast majority who don’t go on to higher education enter an apprenticeship or another form of vocational training.

A strong emphasis is placed on training, and few school-leavers go directly into a job without it. It’s normal practice for those leaving school at 16 to attend a technical college or train as an apprentice. Most parents and students are acutely aware that academic qualifications and training are of paramount importance in obtaining a good job (or any job), and virtually every child is given the opportunity to study for a trade diploma or degree.

A French apprenticeship ( apprentissage) aims to give people aged between 16 and 26 who have completed compulsory schooling a general, theoretical and practical training, leading to a certificate of vocational or technological education at secondary or a higher level. The French apprenticeship scheme is recognised as one of the best in the world.

An apprenticeship is a combination of on-the-job training and further education, where one or two days per week (a minimum of 400 hours per year) are spent at an apprentice training centre ( centre de formation d’apprentis/CFA). An apprent­iceship lasts from one to three years, depending on the type of profession and the qualification sought.

It can be in almost any vocation from carpentry to hairdressing, in the private or public sector. School careers officers are available to advise parents and students on a choice of career. Employers pay a small salary that increases with age and experience, and also pay for apprenticeship schooling and possibly the cost of travel to and from school.

Other types of vocational training aimed principally at jobseekers ( demandeur d’emploi) include the following:

  • Adaptation Contracts ( contrat d’adaptation à un emploi) provide for training during working hours and allow people aged between 16 and 25 to adapt their qualifications to their position in a company. The contract can be for a fixed period of 6 to 12 months or for an indefinite duration. Training lasts for a total of 200 hours and includes practical, on-the-job training and general, vocational and technological education.
  • Qualification Contracts ( contrat de qualification) are intended to allow people between 16 and 25 without adequate qualifications to obtain a vocational qualification with a company. They last from six months to two years and a minimum of 25 per cent of the contract period is spent on general, technological and vocational training leading to a recognised vocational qualification.
  • Orientation Contracts ( contrat d’orientation) are for 16 to 25-year-olds without professional or technological qualifications and last up to nine months.

Further information about apprenticeships and vocational training can be obtained from a regional Direction du Travail, de l’Emploi et de la Formation Professionnelle, from Pole Emploi and from Centre d’Information et d’Orientation (CIO) offices. For the address of your local CIO office, contact your mairie.

This article is an extract from Living and working in France. Click here to get a copy now.

Further reading

Does this article help?

Do you have any comments, updates or questions on this topic? Ask them here: