Up to the mid sixties, the very quick growth in France was then seen as a catch up to a French trend. Then the continuation along the same path came as a surprise. This paper studies continuing training which got developed in large firms when initial schooling was still low and slowly improving and was part of the wave of industrialization between 1965 and 1973. After describing the impressive success of the French economy, the second section draws on the works by labor sociologists and historians. Continuing vocational training has developed outside of the schooling system in large firms pushed by human resources leaders, often influenced by the catholic church social wing. An example in the Loire metalworking industry shows a consolidated firm deemed representative (Compagnie des ateliers et forges de la Loire) opening a secondary technical school in the end of the 50s starting with overseer training and then expanding to higher qualifications. Using household surveys about qualification from 1970 and 1977 the third section estimates wage return to continuing training. They are found to be large (20%) compared both to formal schooling (10% per year). The fourth section looks at the impact of continuous training on qualification. More than half of cadres (technicians and engineers, not overseers) had an initial degree lower than Baccalaureate. Workers with low degree were much more likely to become cadres after having followed continuing training (29% vs. 10%), and half of new cadres (from 1965 to 1970) had followed continuing training. Continuing training was not concentrated on those with higher initial schooling before 1972. The probability of being trained between 1965 and 1971 for those holding a primary school degree was larger, by a factor 1.3, then the unconditional probability (regardless of degree), while it was smaller for those holding a secondary technical degree, by a factor of 0.8. From 1972 to 1976 the respective relative probabilities became 1.0 and 1.2. The last section provides a comparison with the increase in initial formal schooling in terms of human capital. The continuing training had a quarter of the impact of schooling from 1966 to 1976 on “human capital” weighted by estimated wages. According to the 1977 FQP survey the number of persons trained at the initiative of employers was 71 thousands in 1963 and increased to 250 thousands in 1973, while the average length of training decreased from 600 to 400 hours. This increase in training at the end of the 60s is particularly large for equipment goods and not for consumption goods industries. For large nationalized firms (EDF, SNCF) there is no increase from a high level, and in the mid 70s training is as prevalent in the petroleum-glass-chemical and the equipment industries than in the large nationalized firms. Training was the most common in banks were it was more than twice as likely as in large national firms, and even more likely than in the civil service.
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