L: ...You know, work-based learning has always existed but, like Molière’s character Monsieur Jourdain who spoke prose without knowing it, no one has really paid it any attention. However, if you listen to people talking about the way they’ve learned, it’s mainly been on the job or through work.
E: Yes. So what are the implications?
L: Shouldn’t we be thinking about the way people learn at work and the consequences of this learning so that we can rethink training provision? The law covering continuing professional development is opening up new opportunities which will enable us to provide more effective work-based learning.
L: Because the rationale behind the law is now based on outcomes rather than means.
E: So what does that mean for training?
L: It means that even though some of the legal requirements covering training have been removed, professional development for employees still remains a concern. So businesses are going to have to use performance management interviews to prove that their employees have made progress either in terms of their skills or their career development...
They’ll have to show that, even though the tax obligations no longer exist, their employees’ professional development needs are not being ignored.
E: So, actually, we haven’t any more freedom than we had before!
L: YES and NO! YES, it gives us more freedom: businesses will no longer be forced to spend money on training if it is not useful. So no more trips away on work placements, just to spend the training money! Everyone complained about this wasteful expenditure and so now it’s gone and businesses are no longer forced to do it! They gain, if not in freedom then at least in terms of relevance, from their training investment.
NO, the lifting of the tax obligation does not mean complete freedom! As a business’s performance depends to a large extent on the commitment of its employees and the way they do their work, we cannot afford to ignore their development. The lifting of the tax obligation is not just about freedom! It creates a new obligation: the requirement to prove that the business takes its employees’ professional development seriously, enabling them, among other things, to develop their skills and acquire new qualifications.
E: So how do we go about this?
L: The law will lead us to take a closer look at how people are trained on the job or through work.
E: But that’s something completely new...
L: Yes, and no... Have you never come across employees who have developed new skills as they worked, thanks to the Validation of Experience scheme?
E: Yes, of course...
L: So understanding how working provides training and how we can train people as they work is not something totally new. We probably need to look more closely at what people actually do at work and how they learn to do what they do...
E: That’s because you don’t learn how to work by going on a placement... In my case, for example, if I hadn’t had a colleague who...
L: So, basically, you feel the same way I do? Perhaps we’ll stop thinking of a work placement as the only way of learning or training
E: Let’s hope so!
L: So we’re in complete agreement! What if work-based learning led us to rethink our approach to training?
Anne-Lise ULMANN is a lecturer at CNAM and a thematic expert for EPALE.
 In France the legal requirements are a percentage of payroll that the companies have to expend on staff training. If not, this amount has to be paid back to the State.