France: What is apprenticeship program and why should you do it?

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In France, you don’t have to resort to dishwashing or waitressing jobs if you want to work while pursuing your studies. There are apprenticeship programs that let work in the field you’re studying while you’re still doing your classes and let you make money as well. Isn’t it the best of both worlds? Our columnist, Dytha, shares more about the program.

It is no secret that a lot of students abroad do a part time job (sometimes more than one) to help them with their day-to-day expenses and to avoid asking additional allowance from their parents. However, a lot of part-time jobs are not really in line with most of their studies. Let’s say being a barista while majoring in architecture, or being a nanny while doing IT for studies.

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Illustration of graduation day. (Photo from Unsplash)

There is nothing wrong about doing a part-time job, but how about integrating the job in your field of studies, as a part of the curriculum? Giving applause to French government who successfully made this official several decades ago, apprenticeship programs exist in France.

Apprenticeship program, or formation d’apprentissage in French, is not the same as internship. Internship usually begins by the end of the university year, once you finished all of your classes while apprenticeship begins at the same time of the beginning of the university year. However, the objective is the same: to let students have more ‘real’ experience in professional life.


How does it work?

This program is only available for people who have already finished high school and are between 16 and 29 years old, as the program aims to give young and motivated young people opportunities to take the first step in the professional world.

Apprenticeship programs usually have their own rhythm of work, depending on the university, in one week you can have 2 days at the office and 3 days at the university, up to 3 weeks of working and 1 week of studying. The scheduling depends on each university and how they implement the program. The mix of academic and work will provide you with a combination of theoretical base and more practical skills, and more importantly to have balance between them.

The program can last from one upto several years, depending on what degree you are preparing for. When the program starts, usually the company gives you 45 days of what they called période d’essaie (probation period) before they finally accept you in the company officially.

Why should I apply for apprenticeship program?
Just like a normal job, apprentices have a right to get paid. Yes, according to your age, the company and the level of your studies, you will have a certain amount of salary every month. Which can help you with your allowance. The best part is that the salary is normally tax-included, which means you don’t need to pay tax afterwards.

Another great thing about apprenticeship is that the company will pay for your school fees. Yes, every single penny of it, they will also reimburse the registration fee. Starting from this year, a foreign student from countries outside of European Union has to pay at least 2,700€ per year for undergraduate studies and 3,700€ per year for postgraduate studies, which means apprenticeship programs are one of the best options to let you study and work abroad at the same time without scholarship. French government is trying their best to increase the percentage of students in apprenticeship every year, the apprentices even get an aid to pay their rent while still having the same benefits like other students (cheaper transportation card, free entry to museums, special price at university canteens and so on).

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Graduation after one year of apprenticeship. (Photo by author)

Not only on financial level, apprenticeship programs allow you to have a better, real working experience. You will have missions and certain responsibilities that your manager will give and direct you to your objectives. Not to mention that it will be a very strong point on your CV especially once you finish your studies as internships required less engagements and usually shorter in terms of duration.

In certain number of cases, a lot of Indonesian apprentices find a job through apprenticeship programs. In one or several years of apprenticeship contracts, the company can see how you can cope up with your work and stress, how you manage your task and how your strong points can be an addition to the team. It allows you to have bigger chance to find a real job, better than to apply somewhere else to test your chance.

How can you do it?
In order to enroll in the program you need to find the university that has this program. A lot of universities normally do, even though the number is quite low compared to the regular program, and French government is pushing more universities and companies to start to accept apprentices.

Once you got accepted in the school, you then need to know the essentials: the rhythm of your workdays, and depending on these days, you now need to find companies that are available for this requirement. Normally, French universities have some agreements or collaborations with certain companies (usually the big ones) and have their students / apprentices working for these companies.

The process is like finding a job or internship, you will need to pimp up your CV, send a motivation letter (really important in France!), and then if they interest with your profile they will try to contact you by email or phone call to organize an interview. If you nailed it, they will let you know and ask you to sign the contract.

However, for foreigners, it is not as easy as 1,2,3, because normally we have a studying visa, we need to ask an autorisation de travail (work permit). So why a part-timer doesn’t need a work permit but an apprentice does? The answer is because in France, a foreigner student has the right to work up to 964 hours per university year, which means from September to September normally. Apart from that, you need a working visa or a work permit from DIRECCTE ( Directions régionales des entreprises, de la concurrence, de la consommation, du travail et de l’emploi), or the manpower ministry. Once you have it, you can sign your contract and start your apprenticeship and gain an outstanding experience while finishing your university year at the same time.

So, are you interested in working while studying in France? If yes, I’m waiting for you here!