The network of Second Chance Schools has spread across metropolitan France and overseas, with 46 schools distributed over 110 sites. These schools are for young people aged from 18 to 30, without qualifications, who have dropped out of the education system for at least a year.
These plans have several aims, and all focus on the individual: developing skills by the acquisition of experience, working on professional projects, finding training relating to the individual project, and eventually integrating into employment. But how is training organised within these Schools?
Alternance training is central to their operation, and is fully integrated into the training programmes. Often decried, criticised, or even ignored, the principle of alternance training was most clearly illustrated in the 80s, with the advent of Apprentice Training Centres. Long opposed by formal teaching methods, training through experience is no longer relegated to a lower status. Alternance training allows methods of learning to be brought together around several different places, times or training situations. The E2C (Second Chance Schools) try, as far as possible, to distance themselves from the typical operation of the French school system, which reminds many young people about their past failures.
At the Second Chance Schools, we quickly seized on the leverage offered by this way of organising training. Indeed those who are received are very often in a position of considerable precariousness, which has something to do with the education system which has already broken down, been used up, and is therefore painful. Here, the objective of alternance training lies in creating a whole series of experiences, by varying the learning situations Two weeks are given over to training within the school, followed by two weeks of work experience. Incidentally, the young people being trained are known as trainees.
Alternance training is also to be seen in the organisation of the weekly schedule which makes changes in the various workshops involving the trainees (enhancing basic experiences, job search techniques, computing, and English as well as theatre, writing workshops or even physical and sporting activities). Alternance training is the lynchpin of training at the Second Chance School And it allows ‘a bridge to be made between two worlds: those of the companies and the young people’.
When bringing trainees closer to socio-economic reality, the world of work does not allow for improvisation. The other element of alternance training is the time for work experience. This is the time for experiential training, in situations during which the trainee will actually develop existing skills, or acquire new skills. So it's total immersion in what the expected job is all about.
Alternance training is also characterised by the different learning situations that the trainee explores, and strengthens his capacity to adapt to diversity in the training course. It is also alternance training in those who train the young people, who allow them to learn that, little by little, they become players in their own training. Alternance training then evolves into the conquest of the autonomy of the individual with the aim of emancipation: which will come about as future professionals, capable of working in alternance situations. And so the job is done!
Olivier Ferron is an ambassador for EPALE France, as a student in master's degree in Adult Learning (SIFA - University of Tours).
 cf p.7 Presentation of E2C network, 2015 ; available en French: http://www.reseau-e2c.fr/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/1203-R%C3%A9seau-E2C-Fiches-brochure2.pdf