Staffing agencies in France can now place young people into apprenticeships with client companies. The new law to promote vocational training was approved last summer, but just took effect this month. Employees of staffing agencies can accompany young apprenticeship candidates in their search for an appropriate company, and also work with the employers in their search for an appropriate apprentice.
Here are some details of the new law:
- The duration of the temporary employment relationship between staffing agencies and apprentices has to be equal to the duration of the apprenticeship, with a minimum period of six months and a maximum period of 36 months.
- There has to be dual tutoring for the apprentices by qualified ‘Masters of Apprenticeship’ (Maȋtres d’Apprentissage) from both the staffing agency and the company hiring the apprentice.
- The apprenticeship master appointed by the temporary employment agency monitors the apprentice throughout their training and ensures appropriate progress, in conjunction with the training center for apprentices and apprenticeship masters appointed by the hiring firms.
- The maximum number of apprentices that can be accommodated simultaneously in a temporary employment company is fixed at five per master trainer.
Of course the concept of transferring skills from one generation to another in some form of apprenticeship is hardly new. Four thousand years ago, the Babylonian Code of Hammurabi provided that artisans teach their crafts to youth. The records of Egypt, Greece, and Rome from earliest times reveal that skills were still being passed on in this fashion.
And many of Europe’s most famous cathedrals and monuments were built with the help of apprentices. Historically though, the concept of apprenticeships has been much more successful and widespread in Germany, Austria and Switzerland than in France.
Now fighting for his re-election, French President Nicolas Sarkozy says the French should in fact be more like the Germans. Unemployment in France is at a 12-year high and rising. Germany’s unemployment rate, at 7.4 percent, is at its lowest point since reunification in 1991.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy says the French should be more like the Germans. Unemployment in France is at a 12-year high and rising. Germany’s unemployment rate, at 7.4 percent, is at its lowest point since reunification in 1991.
More than 60% of German workers go through the apprentice system, according to Irmgard Nübler, an expert on apprenticeships at the International Labor Organization in Geneva. In France, the percentage is in the single digits, she said.
“It’s a completely different type of learning compared with school,” Nübler told the International Herald Tribune. “You have to subordinate yourself to the master. It’s a socialization process.”
“It’s a completely different type of learning compared with school. You have to subordinate yourself to the master. It’s a socialization process.”
In the past, a young person left his family, often at a very young age, to train with a master and learn a trade they could keep for life.
But the “masters” these days are often large corporations, and experts say it’s uncertain to what extent they are willing to take on disenfranchised young people in training programs.
“Companies in France do not seem very interested,” sys Bernard Hugonnier, deputy director of the education directorate at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in Paris.
Christian Joussein has run apprentice programs for almost two decades in France. He says, “There are today thousands of young people who are in universities who are wasting their time and their money. They could be learning a profession that will allow them to earn a living.”
“There are today thousands of young people who are in universities who are wasting their time and their money. They could be learning a profession that will allow them to earn a living.”
In fact, there is some of that sentiment in this country. I spoke to the owner and CEO of a CNC precision machining company that makes components for the aerospace and automotive industries. He says too many Americans are in college, accumulating debt, and struggling to find work after graduation. At the same time, he has good paying machinists jobs routinely unfilled for lack of applicants with the right training.
It will be some time before we will know how successful the French government’s new push into apprenticeships are known.
What do you think? Should we push apprenticeships as a viable path for our young people, as opposed to a kind of last-resort option for high-school dropouts?
As a staffing agency owner, would you be interested in helping teenagers connect with businesses interested in taking on apprentices, or conversely working for a client who wants to find an apprentice?
Would this take an entirely different model than the one you are using now, or would only the age of your candidates change?
We’d love to hear from you.