What is characteristic of the French system is a great variety of the services providing information and guidance. The advantages of this situation are a wide range of techniques, of practices, and of practitioners and a large number of guidance providers all over the French territory. But what is missing is a certain coordination and coherence at a national level, which means for the clients a lack of visibility. So it is rather difficult to evaluate those guidance providers and to have a clear overview at a national level. Relationships between all those services are rather difficult. In other words, there is no unique life long guidance service in our country.
Despite of all this, the main guidance providers are run by two Ministries, the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Employment, even if other ministries are involved as well: Ministry of Higher Education and Research and to a lesser extent Ministries of Youth and Agriculture. Guidance services depending on the Ministry of Education are targeting post-primary schools, higher and further education institutions, roughly 600 guidance services (CIO Centre d’Information et d’Orientation) with a national information provider ONISEP (Office National d’Information sur les Enseignements et les Professions). The job is carried out by very well trained practitioners such as guidance counsellors called “ Conseillers d’Orientation Psychologues “ and non specialists, such as teachers. These counsellors are working both in the educational institutions and in the guidance centers.
There is also what we call MGI (Mission Générale d’Insertion) which is a structure focussing on school leavers without any qualification and droppers as well.
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 employment or wish to retrain, relocate or learn 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 irrespective of whether they are in or seeking employment, waged or self-employed.
Another network reporting to the Ministry of Employment is the network of employment centres (Maisons de l’emploi). Their purpose is to help the various agencies involved (local authorities, Pôle Emploi), 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. Its 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 disseminated by training action, resource and information centres (centres d’animation, de ressources et d’information sur la formation or CARIFs). These comprise a network of regional contact points for training professionals. Financed jointly by the Government and the regions, they 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, etc.
– 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, as local authorities and the Government have sought to coordinate grassroots efforts to help young people in the 16-25 age band overcome barriers to social and vocational integration. Most of those who need help are unqualified or their qualifications are out of date ;
– some training organisations include, as part of their work, guidance, advice and placement services ;
– certain joint bodies that manage training-insurance funds – notably 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 centres (CIBC) serve both employees and job-seekers who need to plan their careers;
– private guidance centres and private press agencies such as L’Etudiant offer information for secondary school and university students.

This wide range of information, guidance and counselling services has been shaped by differences in respect of the groups targeted (school pupils, young people, adults, the unemployed, women, the disabled), the types of service offered (individual counselling, skill audit, group or individual services, training, information), practitioners’ qualifications (counsellors, psychologists, teachers, information providers, social workers), the status of facilities (public, private, voluntary, commercial, professional) and financing (state, local authority, joint organisations, 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 initiatives
– Minister of education frames the “socle commun de competences” (knowledge, skills, abilities) for compulsory school, including autonomy.  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 be next year 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 aug 10th 2007 concerning liberties and responsabilities of universities give them a mission of guidance and career service. They develop  practices of  skills-port-folios as 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 creates a « public lifelong guidance service »  organized “to guarantee all persons access to free, full and objective information on occupations, training, certification, job opportunities and remuneration levels as well as access to quality, networked guidance advisory and assistance services.” The law also states  that are eligible for recognition as participating in the public lifelong guidance service, those bodies which offer a range of services in a single place for all persons to:
“1° Access full, objective information on occupations, the skills and qualifications required to exercise them, and the training and certification arrangements, as well as the training bodies and the quality labels granted to the said bodies;
2° Benefit from personalised advice to be 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 with a first information or advice for guidance and training, and will direct them to bodies able to provide them convenient information and counselling for professional guidance. This service may be funded by State, regions, and specific Funds managed by social partners to make secure the professional pathways.
A delegate for information and guidance, placed near Prime minister will have authority for achievement of the “dematerialized “service”, will be also responsible for providing quality standards for services, evaluation of national and regional policies,  will help to coordinate information and guidance policies at regional and local level. He will succeed to the “interministerial delegate » created three years ago for youth information and guidance  who drew up in 2007 “schéma national de l’orientation et de l’insertion professionnelle des jeunes” (“National guideline for youth guidance and employability”).

The law plans possibility for children to have a record book about abilities and skills (“livret de compétences”) got in and out of school, and, for adults the possibility to have a “passport for training and guidance” summing up  training, skill assessments, qualifications …

Feb 2012