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Electronic Platform for Adult Learning in Europe



HOPE – French national program for vocational training and French language training in a professional context to cater for 1500 refugees

by Malgorzata Mandola
Language: EN

From a project to a national program

The HOPE project (Hébergement, Orientation Pour l’Emploi - accommodation and job orientation) was created following the dismantling of the ”jungle” in Calais in 2017. It was initiated by Pascale Gérard, Director of the Department of Social Inclusion in AFPA, who leads the program today.  The HOPE project: accommodation and career guidance, combines a first phase of learning French in a professional context with a second phase in the form of a professional training contract.

Following the success of the experimental pilot project which was deployed in May 2017 among 200 migrants coming from Calais, Afpa (Agence nationale pour la formation professionnelle des adultes - national organization for adult vocational training), supported by the French Department of Employment (Ministère du Travail) and the Ministry of Housing (Ministère du Logement) and 7 OPCA (organization responsible for collecting funds, assessing training needs within companies and providing finance for professional training) launched the HOPE program which was aimed at refugees. What was the objective? Facilitate their integration into French society and into employment.

Within the framework of its public service remit, Afpa has developed a customized course which is able to offer “integrated training for refugees”. This course framework includes accommodation, food, the opportunity to find out about different jobs, putting together a career plan, and a complete or partial qualification. It also includes support to help with professional integration and social inclusion. 


AFPA (Agence nationale pour la formation professionnelle des adultes - national organization for adult vocational training)

Afpa “participates in the training and qualification of those who are most removed from the job market and contributes to their social and professional integration” following the government decree of 10th November 2016 which proposed the creation of an organization within the public sector dedicated to employment and adult vocational training.

Afpa offers a complete range of services which allow trainees to have access to accommodation, food and associated facilities on site. Afpa, as a public industrial and commercial entity, is able to mobilize its accommodation and food offer which is, moreover, financed by state budgets.


How the program is organized

Trainees take part in the HOPE program once they have followed the various modules of civic instruction and language courses offered by l’OFII (The French Office for Immigration and Integration) within the framework of the republican integration contract: 200-600 hours for A1 level.

The target audiences for the program are refugees and those who have been granted subsidiary protection and who are enrolled in a learning path for French which is based on the CECRL (The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages) with a view to finding employment.

The learning path is made up of two main parts:

  • I. Learning French and finding out about different jobs

This first 400 hour phase consists of learning French in a work context and finding out about jobs with, among other things, visits to companies. The choice of job is offered in three sectors: industry, the building trade or services. This approach allows trainees to apprehend jobs in the professional sector and to prepare themselves for the qualifying training for the chosen job. 

  • II. An interim professional development contract or a training contract: the 1st step towards a professional qualification including French based on specific objectives.

The second phase of the course is envisaged in the form of a training contract or CDPI (Interim professional development contract, for the temping sector). At the very least this makes it possible to obtain a certificate of professional competence (CCP) for a professional title of the Department of Employment. The professional skills within this CCP are reinforced by language skills. In total this corresponds to 450 hours. 


The diagram below sums up the learning path offered by Afpa:


Methods and organization of the learning path: synopsis of the learning path


Before training in the Afpa centreTraining in the Afpa centreLasting employment and independence
  • FLE (French as a Foreign language) to reach A1 level
  •   Job discovery orientation
  • Professional language preparation in sectors: Building trade/services/Industry (400 hours - 330 in the centre)
  • Job training -> Training contract or Interim professional development contract (450 hours in the centre) 
 Accommodation – food – social assistance and Integration into the job market

     English translation of: Methods and organization of the learning path: synopsis of the learning path


During these two periods, Afpa offers an accommodation and food package on site. In its role as a public , industrial and commercial entity, Afpa is able to deploy its offer with state-funded budgets. Afpa proposes the setting up of two specific accompaniments :

  • Administrative and social accompaniment which is designed to remove any obstacles which hinder the training being carried out and to secure the learning paths of the trainees.
  • Accompaniment towards inclusion and integration: the objective being to better understand the code of conduct in France (in the workplace, Republican values, living together).


Management and program oversight at three levels:

  • I. National coordination

Coordination is provided by the Asylum department of the general directorate of foreigners in France (The Home Office, Ministry of the Interior). The national steering committee is made up of the reception department, the accompaniment for foreigners and nationality (DAEEN), the general delegation for employment and vocational training (DGEFP), the directorate general of social cohesion (DGCS), l’OFII (the French office for immigration and integration), the jobs and benefits office (Pôle Emploi), the Inter-ministerial delegation for accommodation and access to housing (DIHAL), the joint funds for securing professional paths (FPSPP) and the approved joint collecting organizations (OPCA).

  • II. Regional coordination

Regional prefects (préfets) ensure the coordination of refugee orientation within the region in line with departmental coordination.

  • III. Departmental coordination

Within departments where refugee reception organizations are found, the departmental prefects set up a local steering committee made up of departmental coordinators of the migrant plan, the OPCA (the joint collecting organizations) concerned, the Regional Office for Competition, Consumption, Labour and Employment (DIRECCTE), the technical department (DT) of the jobs and benefits office, the DT OFII, the DDCS or DDCSPP, the managers of the accommodation concerned, the family allowance office (CAF), the department of social security (CPAM) in addition to any of the employment players the prefects deem necessary to  associate. If need be, the national platform for refugee housing led by the DIHAL is mobilized to identify durable relocation solutions in terms of geographic mobility.


How the training is organized

The refugee trainees who become part of the HOPE program are designated by OFII and must have reached at least A1 level in French. This level of knowledge in French is defined by the ability to understand and use everyday language and familiar expressions as well as very simple instructions in order to be able to respond to concrete needs. Henceforth they will be able to introduce themselves or introduce someone. They can ask questions about the person they are speaking to, in particular: about where he lives, the people he knows, his belongings, etc. They can also answer the same type of questions. In short they can communicate in a simple way if the person they are speaking to speaks slowly, clearly and is willing to cooperate.

Training is focused on the development of the basics of the language, on vocabulary acquisition, as well as particular language skills which are specific to the professional field concerned, to job search and business knowledge: lexicon linked to jobs, hygiene and safety standards, communication.

One of the pedagogical principles is based on the logic of putting together the training with the learner and developing a partnership with the economic and institutional players in the area. Specifically in terms of language learning, the selected pedagogical approaches are with a view to plurilingualism and pluri-literacy. They are based upon an action-orientated and interactive approach.


Pedagogical organization and content

The pedagogical organization of the program is based on a succession of days or half-days of training devoted alternately to a social-professional environment, that is to say the job itself, and to learning the French language. This gives meaning to the learning process: the trainees become aware of the relevance of the language training and of their employability (skills identification, knowledge and requirements).

In order to do this we suggest:

  • That both a French language trainer and a professional trainer of the jobs concerned conduct the training;
  • Testing language skills put into practice in a real-life work context;
  • Testing professional skills put into practice on Afpa technical training platforms. These are platforms equipped with professional tools which are monitored by experts in the field and make it possible to simulate professional actions.

The pedagogical approaches on offer are action-orientated and participative and are inspired by “learning by doing”, adapted from the practices of the participants themselves. Group dynamics encourages exchanges and indeed confrontations of different points of view, which are learning factors and a source of enrichment for each of the participants, thereby promoting teamwork (all important in a business context).

It is a question of using learning models based on pedagogy for adults, which always go from the concrete to the abstract. The pedagogical sequences are created based on the knowledge of the trainees, their ideas, the social and professional situations they have experienced, with a view to: enabling the trainee to achieve the best linguistic and professional performance possible.

Lessons learned and perspectives

The deployment of the professional language preparatory course  is the result of a series of experimentation which Afpa set up with the aim of designing the engineering of training for French as a professional language after the project was launched in September 2017. Some elements observed in previous experimentations have enabled improvements to be implemented and future developments to be envisaged.

  • Insufficient autonomy and the heterogeneity among the public concerned has led us to create two MOOC FLE (French as a foreign language and MOOC FLI.

The heterogeneity which can be noted among refugee trainees is considerable and manifests itself on several levels: heterogeneity with regard to the level of knowledge in French, heterogeneity with regard to cultural and extra lingual knowledge. For this purpose two MOOCS (Massive Open Online Course) have been created by AFPA’s training engineer Sylvie Kovarik:

  1. The FLE (French as a foreign language) MOOC aims to provide beginners with elementary French:
  2. The FLI (French as a language of professional integration) MOOC is aimed at complete beginners and uses a pedagogical approach focusing on listening, repetition and pronunciation of words:
  • Facilitating the community of trainers and coaches

Considering the scope of the project, a professional community made up of trainers and coaches will be set up in order to encourage the exchange of good practice, to avoid misuse and to pinpoint whatever necessitates collective processing. Moreover exchanges between trainers will facilitate improvements to the program.

  • Training of trainers

Before the training sessions begin, a week’s training for the trainers is organized.  This is to help those concerned to come to grips with the proposed course and the specific tools created within the framework of the HOPE program.

  • The need for language certification based on professional objectives specially adapted for a public of migrants and refugees.

This is an assessment of language knowledge which would be specially adapted to the public of migrants and refugees and which could attest to the ability to communicate or/and understand instructions in a context of professional immersion in a rather general sense without focusing on a particular job. The development of the new language certification and the management of the project have been implemented by Malgorzata Mandola, the author of the present article. The need has been expressed by the French Department of Employment  and it is the remit of Afpa to design and set up new certification and train future juries.



The HOPE program was set up by the State, the job and benefits centre, The French Office for Immigration and Integration (Ofii) and the national organization for adult vocational training (Afpa). The greatest strengths of the program are the partnerships with local economic players, national and local companies and governmental entities in terms of employment and housing of the refugees. 

The HOPE experience has already allowed Afpa to rediscover the sector of language training in the professional field. It intends to develop new projects in order to contribute to designing tools and didactic resources for the teaching-learning of French in a professional context and for jobs which companies find difficulty recruiting.

The results for the year 2017 are as follows:

  • 65 % of those participating found work at the end of the course
  • 75 % of trainees found housing once the training was finished


Infos :

Author: Malgorzata MANDOLA

PhD in French linguistics. Author of the French language certification for the professional and social integration of migrants commissioned by the French Department of Employment (Ministère du Travail). Training engineer at Afpa.

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