In France, after going to collège (lower secondary school from 11 to 15 years), pupils opt either to continue studies in mainstream and technological education or go for the vocational stream.
The vocational stream prepares pupils with the aim of obtaining a diploma :
- CAP: Certificat d’Aptitude Professionnelle: a certificate of vocational aptitude taken after 2 years of study
- BP : Brevet professionnel : a certificate of vocational aptitude in 2 years after the CAP
- BAC professionnel: the vocational high-school leaving certificate taken after 3 years of study
The vocational pathway enables pupils to learn a trade by gradually moving from the school environment to the world of work in particular through dual training courses with some time spent in the workplace and other periods at school. These diplomas can be prepared through schooling at a vocational high school or through an apprenticeship in a Centre de Formation pour Apprentis (CFA – apprenticeship training centre).
“Lycée des métiers” (high school for trades) is a label of excellence awarded to over 800 vocational high schools.
After the baccalauréat, students can continue their studies and obtain vocational diplomas in 2 years which open up good professional prospects :
- Brevet de Technicien Supérieur (BTS – higher technician diploma) and Brevet de Technicien Supérieur Agricole
(BTSA – higher technician diploma in agriculture)
- Diplôme Universitaires de Technologie (DUT – university technology diploma).
They can both be followed by directly entering the job market or else students can go on to do an additional year of studies:
- Licence Professionnelle – a vocational bachelor’s degree
- Formation Complémentaire – additional training.
After leaving the educational system, training can continue through lifelong adult education and validation of professional experience.
In France, apprenticeships are available for all vocational diplomas from the CAP up to the master’s degree including engineering and business schools.