Mapping the Provision of Training

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The The role of knowledge in the regulation of regional initial vocational training and education policies (Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur/Rhône-Alpes Regions).

In the field of an infra-national approach, the proliferation of regulation actors, the increasing complexity of the tools which are partly a result, and the influence of political channels on the organisation of institutional knowledge no longer permit the separation of the precise roles of the different decision-making bodies and the most operational arenas of deliberation for purposes of simplification. This is particularly true for the multi-faceted subject under study here: the map of initial training and education programmes as an instrument of ‘regulation’ at the infra-national level of education policies. We argue that the training and education maps have evolved from a status of an ‘instrument of power’, defining a social relationship of domination between the public authority and its recipients (Fourquet, 1976), to that of a ‘tool of regulation’ – in other words, a technical object whose production and interpretation help actors within a single field of intervention to position themselves in relation to one another.

Our study is based on three main hypotheses : 1: The technical instrument known as the ‘training and education map’ does not exist in isolation but comes within a system of trade-offs which varies according to the regional context, here Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur (PACA) and Rhône Alpes (RA). 2: The use of such a map is integrated into a process of harmonising various professional and political logics which in turn modifies its contours 3: It is difficult to define the training and education map as a management tool because it lies at the intersection of sector-based and territorial logics and thus has more to do with the regulation of negotiated control.

Our research method has consisted of tracing the mapping activity as it involves the participation of a variety of VET actors intervening in different ways. We proceed in three stages. The first chapter addresses the context (i.e., that of both the present phase of decentralisation and the regional distinctions) in which the initial VET systems are to be apprehended. In the next two chapters, the hypotheses presented above are put to the test. Mapping education and training provision draws upon different kinds of expert knowledge and we analyse the logics of the actors involved and the different series of trade-offs which accord them their respective degrees of legitimacy. Then we put these endogenous logics into perspective by studying in particular the way each of the two Regions under consideration has handled the exogenous shock constituted by the reduction of the vocational baccalauréat programme from four to three years.

In the two Regions, the PRDFs [1] have sought to place diagnostic knowledge about the regional training-employment relationship at the core of the regulation mechanisms of the initial VET maps. In both cases, after a period of intense mobilisations through or around the production of knowledge, there was a reaffirmation of autonomous regulations (local education authorities versus Regions) of the initial training and education offers which moderated investments in the initial diagnoses.

Since 2004-2006 occurs a break-up of contract-based partnerships (PACA). The PRDF scarcely gave rise to operational results and was to fade away without being followed by a new plan at the end of its five-year term. In Rhône-Alpes the efforts coming from social dialogue have had a limited impact. For instance the studies carried out by the ‘Territories’ group required a growing number of consultations that has mobilised many actors but these remain limited to exchanges of viewpoints. In both Regions, moreover, we can observe the failure of contractualisation by branches to contribute to the harmonisation of the different maps of initial and continuing VET. All of these factors have compromised the credibility of the PDRF, which depends much more on its concrete results than on the announcement of broad principles which easily meet with general approval precisely because they do not in themselves imply specific commitments.

In the most recent period, circumstances proper to the political field have revived splits and asymmetries which are hardly favourable to any joint regulation going beyond the assertion of major principles. The State has set out a series of reforms elaborated without real consultation with the territorial authorities (or anyone else). For their part, the Regions have, with more or less insistence, opted for the establishment of a ‘regional public service for VET and apprenticeship’. This line, couched in a largely political rhetoric, was adopted with practically no prior consultation with the State field services. The conjunction of growing political dissensus between the State and the Regions, the introduction of stricter budgetary requirements and the chronic failures of the PRDF implementation tools, among others, means that each partner tends to be more exclusively concerned with the logics of the scheme coming under its own legal responsibility. The temptation, or trend, is considerably more pronounced among the local education authorities, which have long benefited from managerial know-how, an indispensable body of experts – the inspectors – and well-equipped statistical services, as well as territorial intermediaries in the person of the head teachers.

At present, however, relatively few ‘excesses’ may be observed, insofar as the various regulations are closely framed by a body of technical standards and rules. This policy supervision depends on two kinds of knowledge : one is of a paradigmatic nature and has to do with a shared conception of the training-employment relationship, while the other is rooted in collaborative procedures. The statistics dealing with educational demography, meanwhile, are generally too important not to be mutually appropriated. While managerial justifications are not new, they are increasingly widespread – and given their tight budget constraints, the Regions are no exception to this trend. In such a context, skilfulness in justifying the use of resources increasingly turns out to be indispensable knowledge for anyone seeking to reconcile a ‘rationalised’ regionalisation of means and the maintenance of ‘ambitious’ objectives in the area of education and training. At this stage of France’s decentralisation, the State’s representative, the chief education Officer, enjoys a clear institutional and cognitive advantage over regional officials for the development of such skills.

[1] Since the 1993 law, the devolution of the organisation of public training policy to the regional level has led to the creation and implementationn of a priority instrument for intervention, the Regional Development Plan for Youth Vocational Training (Plan Régional de Développement de la Formation Professionnelle des Jeunes, PRDFPJ), the goal of which is ‘the medium-term programming of responses to training needs which permits a coherent development of the training programmes as a whole and takes into account regional economic realities and the needs of the young people so as to guarantee them the best chances of access to employment’

BUISSON-FENET Hélène & VERDIER Éric (2010), Mapping the Provision of Training, KNOWandPOL Report.

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  • FOURQUET F. & MURARD L. (1976), Les équipements du pouvoir : villes, territoires et équipements collectifs, Paris : UGE.

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