French training fund deemed success despite scams

Scam artists took advantage of a simplified system to trick workers in to paying for non-existent training schemes

Despite problems the French training fund appears to work well for most people

Plans to ask workers to contribute financially so they can access their training funds have hit a bump after a state research body found that the current system works well.

The compte personnel de formation (CPF) in its present form replaced a system which had been in place for years, where employers, salaried workers and the self-employed paid into a fund as a payroll tax.

In return, they were credited a number of training hours.

These hours could be used for various training schemes, but due to a complex system of value indexes, the system was very difficult to use.

In 2019, the government replaced the hours with money accounts where workers could see online how much they had to spend on training schemes.

Run by the Caisse des dépôts et consignations, the scheme had a budget of €2.45billion in 2022 and is largely self-financing.

Reforms encouraged crooks

The reforms made things simpler but also encouraged crooks who, through illegal telemarketing and other approaches, would trick workers into signing away their training euros for false courses.

One gang, arrested in the Paris suburbs, was thought to have made hundreds of thousands of euros simply by offering workers €20 gift tokens to say they had taken part in training so they got the funds.

These scandals spurred the government to look at ways the CPF can be tightened.

Pushed by the prime minister’s office and the finance ministry, which wants a state-directed scheme aimed at training people for sectors that find it hard to recruit workers, reform plans were published in December.

These include the idea that workers pay a percentage of the fund out of their own pockets to access their desired training.

However, labour lawyers and unions immediately said the text was unconstitutional because it would discriminate against some workers.

Since then, there has been no attempt to implement the new measures.

Working well for most people

Now a study by the labour ministry’s own research organisation DARES has shown the CPF is actually working well for most people.

It looked at a representative sample of the two million times the CPF was used in 2021, and found that nine out of 10 users praised it as a good system.

In 75% of cases it was workers themselves who looked for training courses; in 4% it was the employer looking to train workers; in 6% of cases advertising or telemarketing had prompted use; and in 15% of cases it was a friend or relative who initiated the training.

In eight out of 10 cases, the CPF training was used for professional reasons.

Within this group, 35% said they did it to advance their careers.

Just 16% said they had signed up for a course to have fun or socialise.

The research showed that most people took their training seriously, with 81% completing the courses they signed up for in 2021 by November, and only 11% starting and then giving up on the training.

Of the rest, around 5% had signed up but not started for various reasons, and 3% were still in training.

One of the big successes was getting a driving licence – around 13% of workers used the CPF to do so, with many putting it to immediate use at work.

Third of unemployed got a job

Another positive statistic was that a third of unemployed people who took training courses had found a job.

Where people were already working, a quarter of employees had been promoted after their training, either in their original firm or by changing companies.

Only 20% say they would have still done the training if they had had to pay for it themselves.

DARES is also carrying out a separate research project on fraud in the CPF system, which it says will be published later this year.

However, the results of the first project are so positive that it would now be very difficult for the government to change the system.

The CPF has also improved for self-employed workers. For decades, they had to make an extra contribution to their Urssaf payments every March for training but were then faced with a bureaucratic nightmare if they tried to access government funds.

Now all certificates of payment into training funds are available online instead of being paper only, and can be sent directly to the bodies charged with training independent workers.

How the funds are distributed depends on your job.

Someone in a non-medical profession libérale, for example, will have to go through a body called Fonds interprofessionnel de formation des professionnels libéraux (Fifpl).

Previously, contact had to be by post, but Fifpl now has a website explaining how to ask for funding, as well as the four documents you will need to be considered.

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