Medium-term Scientific Guidelines and Performance Target Agreementfor 2014-2017

Two instruments providing a multi-annual framework for Céreq’s work

Céreq is both an organisation that generates scientific knowledge and a public body whose two main missions are defined in the French Education Code as follows:
 

1. Conduct studies and research on the qualifications of the population and on how their acquired through initial and continuing education and training and work experience, on changes in qualifications due to technological transformations and the organisation of work and employment, and on conditions governing access to employment and professional and social mobility, according to the training received and company workforce management;

 

2. Put forward opinions and proposals on the consequences that may be drawn from the above studies and research in determining choices in training and education policy.”

 

As a centre for studies and research,Céreq is required to periodically define Medium-term Scientific Guidelines for a multi-year period. Backed by its scientific committee, Céreq has met this requirement from the very outset by providing a framework for understanding that covers often urgent matters expressed by public decision-makers and stakeholders concerned with the training-employment relationship. The French Education Code itself stipulates that: “the centre conducts (...) studies and research defined by medium-term guidelines and based on the development of several disciplines.” In this respect, the medium-term guidelines serve a twofold purpose: they provide scientific guidance for organising study and research programmes, and offer a sound basis for supporting opinions and any ensuing proposals for action.

 

As a public body,Céreq is required to periodically sign a Performance Target Agreement that sets out priority targets to enable the organisation to improve its overall performance within a given multi-year period. According to a circular issued in 2010, this type of agreement is one of the tools used by the French government for steering the strategy of public bodies. The aim here is to identify pathways to improvement and define goals. Public bodies are asked to achieve this by defining an action plan and tracking and performance indicators, together with their target values.

 

Medium-term Guidelines

The Medium-term Guidelines for 2014-2017 were examined by the Scientific Committee and voted on by the Board of Administration. Their aim is to promote scientific output, while focusing studies and research activities more closely on a few priority research topics. In this way, they are intended both as a management tool and incentive, becoming clearer to stakeholders both inside and outside Céreq. They should also improve Céreq’s responses to its partners’ requests by ensuring that they tie in more explicitly with longer-range research programmes. Today, four major fields of research and development have emerged which can be defined under the following headings: 1. Training and certification systems; 2. School-to-work transition, labour markets and career paths; 3. Organisation, labour and skills building; 4. Mechanisms, institutions, stakeholders and areas acting as interfaces between training, employment and labour.

 

Performance Target Agreement

The Performance Target Agreement for 2014-2017 defines eight targets aimed at driving progress at Céreq and improving its performance in its public service mission. The agreement takes into account not only Céreq’s various activities and current positioning, but also the prospects for education, lifelong learning and employment and budget prospects insofar as they can be assessed. While budget forecasts indicate a drop in structural operating expenditure over the period on account of the reduction in public spending, this downturn in expenditure is not too sharp. The eight targets specify a general objective, namely to go on developing a public expertise centre at the service of the main stakeholders concerned with the training-employment relationship.

 

Céreq will focus on: (a) the process of generating knowledge; (b) the process of disseminating this knowledge; and (c) resource management.

 

a) Developing high-quality knowledgeimplies taking into account:

‐ the defining role of the medium-term scientific guidelines (target 1);

- the vital role of Céreq’s cooperation with the research world (target 2);

- the key role played by large-scale statistical surveys (target 3).

 

b) Improving the dissemination of knowledgewill focus on three points:

‐ the effectiveness of the communication system (target 4);

‐ the areas of public policy to be informed by surveys, studies, research and recommendations (target 5);

‐ targeting in terms of training and employment stakeholders (target 6).

 

c) In order to operate while helping to reduce public spending,Céreq must seek to:

‐ develop a conventional activity that allows it to generate its own resources (target 7);

‐ optimise the use of available resources (target 8).

 

How the two multi-year frameworks work together

The heading of the first target set out in the Performance Target Agreement (“Develop research on training-labour-employment relationships, based on the medium-term scientific guidelines”) clearly announces that the medium-term scientific guidelines will help to structure Céreq’s work with an eye to developing research programmes. This target ties in with the others, in particular target 5 (“Inform public policies in seven priority areas”). Note that this implies that Céreq will be required to do more to:

‐ inform initiatives aimed at driving change in all or some professional diplomas and certificates;

- inform initiatives intended to reduce the number of young people or adults with no qualifications;

‐ assess initiatives aimed at helping young people into work;

- assess continuing education programmes for employees and young people and recent developments in this area;

‐ provide input for foresight discussions;

‐ shed light on requirements relating to qualifications and training programmes associated with the ecological transition;

‐ inform initiatives defining public guidance or the vocational training offering at the local or regional level.

In view of Céreq’s missions and the expectations of its supervisory ministries, it might be thought that the fifth target should take precedence over the first as it directly addresses the issue of output to public decision-makers. For this reason, it must be stressed that, far from competing, these two targets complement and strengthen each other.

Closer analysis reveals that many issues from the four research programmes in the medium-term guidelines will shed light on the seven “priority areas”. For example, the programme concerning “training and certification systems” will not only shed light, of course, on initiatives aimed at driving change in all or some professional diplomas and certificates, but also on “skills-training” programmes, which is one of the methods implemented to ease the school-to-work transition. Ultimately, defining priority research programmes does not ignore the need to inform public policies and respond to the questions of stakeholders concerned with the training-employment relationship. On the contrary, it seeks to provide the resources for more substantial support, rather than a series of brief answers that are not rooted in theory and lack the necessary distance and process of capitalisation.

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