Show me the money
The last part of this whole process was finding funding. Now The Company is all for its employees furthering their education - they are currently funding the MBA's of two co-workers, and at $50,000 a pop, that ain't chump change. But the key word there is employees. Technically, because of French labor laws, I am not an employee of The Company, I am a contractor. I use what's called a portage company - they gave me a CDI and bill The Company monthly thus I get all the benefits of being a French employee without The Company having to set up an office here or me working illegally. The downside of all of this though is that I don't get any of the benefits The Company offers, in this case - their continuing education funding.
However I consider myself to be an employee and they do as well - in fact most of my co-workers don't even realize I am not. But because of this technicality, The Company cannot get a tax break on paying for my education and thus the CEO said no. And I gotta tell you, this made me pretty darn angry. I love my job, but I make a lot of sacrifices for it - many nights I am on the phone in meetings until 10 or 11pm and my blackberry is practically glued to my hand. I invest so much into my work and was pretty frustrated that they were not willing to invest in me, especially since I was wanting to learn these skills in order to better do the new job they had assigned to me.
And thus began several months of back and forth between me and my employer. I finally ended up putting together a powerpoint showing just exactly how astronomically the market had grown since I was hired and how much money I was bringing. My boss went to bat for me several times and in the end, they agreed to fund me if I would stick around for X number of years.
In the middle of it all though, I wasn't sure we would ever get to that point, so I started looking for other options out there, and realized I had a lot of DIF saved up. The DIF stands for le droit individuel à la formation, and it is basically hours/money saved up for continuing education. If you have a CDI, you earn 20 hours of DIF per year, which you can accumulate for up to 6 years (so 120 hours total). People on a CDD also accumulate DIF credits, but in a lesser amount.
As a side note, your employer has to approve you using your DIF. But in my understanding of it, if they deny your request twice, you can transform your request into a CIF, le congé individuel de formation, which means you take a leave of absence from your job to do a training program. Your employer can't refuse the CIF but he can delay the start of it under certain circumstances.
Luckily it didn't get to that point with me and the portage company was perfectly happy to help me explore my rights to the DIF. I have been working for them for a long time now, so I had 120 hours saved up. They helped me complete the application to use those and two weeks later, I received a letter saying that I had been approved and they were going to provide full funding for my masters!
So all of that arguing with The Company had been for naught....
That's part of the reason I wanted to post about it here, because it seems that a lot of foreigners working in France aren't aware of the DIF, and I wanted to give it a little more publicity. It doesn't have to be for a long, official program either - a lot of French people use it to take English classes for example, and there is no reason we can't use it too. Plus the application process was pretty easy - just the name & logistics of the program, the reason I wanted to do it and what I hoped to get out of it. So if you're working in France and want to improve your French or learn a new skill, I'd encourage you to check it out - they're taking money each month out of your paycheck for it, so you might as well take advantage of it!
**If anyone wants anymore info about the portage company, just send me an email. They are a great way to start off working in France legally as an interpreter or translator (or other work-from-home type jobs), without having to deal with all of the hassle of signing up as a French business and having to deal with l'URSSAF, etc.