Continuing education, a guarantee of successful professional retraining?


To return or not to the benches of a school or a university? To invest time and money in training or not? These are dilemmas that often arise for professionals concerned with progressing in their careers.

Seizing the opportunities that arise in a changing world requires developing agility, being up to date on new managerial methods, being able to meet immediate imperatives, while taking the necessary height in the face of challenges. longer term. In short, to strengthen their soft skills . But, if being trained is so important, can we say that any registration in training is the guarantee of a successful professional retraining?

There is nowadays a desire to change companies , especially among executives (40%, according to APEC), associated with a fragmentation of jobs, especially with regard to young people. According to Pôle Emploi, young workers today will change jobs on average 13 to 15 times during their lifetime.

However, companies are still reasoning according to a logic of business sectors, and have difficulty understanding the acceleration of changes in employment. This creates tension on the labor market, with companies having more and more difficulty recruiting , a shortage attested in France for the majority of skills (DARES), and employees in career development who no longer necessarily respond to the logic of the business sector.

You no longer practice the same job all your life, and this trend has increased with the Covid-19 epidemic, during which employees have massively questioned their professional choices and deep motivations. Trend based on the phenomenon of the obsolescence of skills  : it is becoming more and more difficult to acquire all the skills that will be needed throughout life in initial training. In this context, vocational training is an important recourse, several authors tell us.

Autonomous and “learning” individuals?

The legislator wanted to respond to the problem of adaptation between jobs and skills by focusing on mobility and continuing education , and by placing the individual at the heart of their career development path. According to this principle, by training freely, you can build the skills necessary to move towards the profession of your choice and succeed in your retraining.

This has made the individual’s freedom of decision the cornerstone of the reform of continuing education. Law No. 2018-771 of September 5, 2018 titles its first chapter as follows: “Strengthening and supporting the freedom of individuals in the choice of their training”. Vocational training no longer has as a priority to promote “access to the different levels of culture” but rather “to allow each employee to be an actor in his professional development”.

In terms of knowledge, this echoes a vision in relation to which our economy is in full “serviation”  : all activity is becoming more and more abstract, based on the understanding and manipulation of information more than on its acquisition. Individuals must gain autonomy and empower themselves as social actors to make decisions in a rapidly changing world. The professional individual must become a “learning” individual.

Four years after this reform, what is the outcome of such an approach? Remember that, for individuals, the main difficulty is that of orientation. How to judge a new job and the training that allows access to it, when the skills involved are not necessarily related to those previously exercised?

The legislator wanted to respond to this by making the individual autonomous in his choice of training with a view to his retraining. The danger of such an approach, however, is to consider autonomy as a categorical imperative . We are almost in the process of defining what an adult learner  should be. It is assumed that individuals are naturally endowed with capacities for initiative , freedom, energy and responsibility.

The problem, however, is that we do not necessarily develop a capacity for autonomy by the simple fact of being placed in a situation where we would have no other option. We all need to be guided in order to improve and deepen our knowledge in order to become more autonomous in our approach: it is not enough to provide access to a large catalog of training courses so that, with the stroke of a magic wand, aspiring candidates for professional retraining can judge the skills to be strengthened and the appropriate training.

Information on the professional development project

The second level of difficulty that aspirants to professional development or retraining face is related to the amount of information available. Inundated with information, they do not always have the possibility of transforming the information coming from training organizations into precise and relevant orientations. Concretely, these difficulties reside first of all in the definition of the theme. Knowing how to choose it requires the ability to consider one’s own professional development, and to make the link between tasks, knowledge, and knowledge to be acquired.

On the other hand, once the theme has been defined, the difficulty relates to the format (duration, face-to-face or remote), the training program and, ultimately, the training organization. Financial and organizational considerations are added to this.

In order to deal with such complexity, the legislator has provided for the mobilization of CEP (Professional Development Council), a role fulfilled as the case may be by Pôle emploi, regional operators or even APEC. But all are historically accustomed to reasoning according to a logic of business sector. The CEPs therefore come up against the same fundamental problem as that of the learners: how to make the link between the current profession, the future profession and the appropriate training, when we are dealing with new skills?

In such a complex universe, how to move forward? Solutions can be found by reflecting on one’s own experience. Indeed, doing everything alone then involves projection in the targeted job.

Being in a situation of transition with a view to retraining is an in-between and fits between a past experience and a future that is still partly uncertain. It is important to reflect on the concrete situations that one might have to face: to focus on experience , on the experience to be had, rather than on past experience. Try to identify future work situations and the knowledge to be developed in order to know how to “act competently” when the time comes.

The CEPs also have their role to play, to build “experience experiences” within the support process, and to promote contact with the target companies. The definition of the precise profession, the skills to be activated and the appropriate training could thus be facilitated by meetings with potential employers: facilitating the trial, meetings with companies, the feedback process to give meaning to the experience.

This focus on future experience has the potential to define the individual and their aspirations, insofar as, quoting Aldous Huxley , “Experience is not what happens to the individual, but what the individual does of what happens to him”.

Reflecting on one’s experience, past and future, optimizes one’s chances of professional retraining because it helps to identify the skills to be strengthened. As for the choice of training, it must be made in relation to this reflection to identify themes, organization and organization of the training. An entire program.

Author Bio: Fiammetta Cascioli is Professor, Director of the Msc Business Transformation for Sustainability at Kedge Business School