OpenClassrooms and Capgemini team up and launch an online apprenticeship program

French startup OpenClassrooms is partnering with IT service company Capgemini to find and hire new people off the beaten path. This is something new for OpenClassrooms and could turn into a lucrative opportunity.

Starting today, 16 people have been recruited by Capgemini to become Java J2EE experts. They’ll first start by studying full time for three months. They’ll then work at Capgemini for 4 days a week, and study one day every week for the next 15 months.

While OpenClassrooms started off as a massive open online course platform, it has evolved beyond the usual one-off online course. For the past couple of years, the company has been working on providing bachelor degrees recognized by the state. You can get a bachelor degree by studying on OpenClassrooms full time for a year.

“Earlier this year, we introduced a guarantee that you’ll find a job after your degree. We expected to struggle to find a company for everyone, but it’s the opposite,” OpenClassrooms VP Strategic Partnerships told me. “We can’t meet the demands of all companies.”

So it’s a classic case of matching supply and demand. On the one hand, many students don’t have enough money or time to study for years and then find a job. On the other hand, some companies like Capgemini struggle to find enough candidates.

Capgemini hires 4,000 people every year in France, 1,000 interns and 400 trainees. With the Grande école du numérique program, Capgemini committed to recruiting 10 percent of its new hires through non-traditional education programs.

OpenClassrooms is one those new partners, but OpenClassrooms is also a bit different as it’s an online program. The startup asked its community of users if they were interested by the Capgemini apprenticeship program. Around 1,400 people applied and passed a test, so it seems like it’s going to be quite easy to find trainees — OpenClassrooms required a bachelor degree.

“This partnership model is a program that is 100 percent online. We can reach potential candidates everywhere in France much more easily,” Capgemini Applications Services Head of Recruitment in France Jihane Baciocchini told me. “It allows us to hire diverse candidates with different profiles.”

Capgemini then interviewed 150 candidates and ended up hiring 16 trainees. This is just a small test for now. Capgemini focused on Java J2EE experts in three different locations — Paris, Bordeaux and Toulouse.

If the company thinks this program is working, Capgemini plans to expand to other business units, other cities and even other countries, such as the U.K. Other companies are also talking with OpenClassrooms about apprenticeship programs.

As for trainees, it’s a sweet deal. French companies need to pay an apprenticeship tax. These apprenticeship funds then pay for apprenticeship programs. When a company hires a trainee, you get a work contract, you don’t have to pay for the courses and you get a degree at the end.

OpenClassrooms is charging $14 per hour of online course (€12). This apprenticeship program represents a thousand hours of courses. With a little back-of-the-envelope calculation, it looks like this program is a $224,000 deal for the startup — not bad for such a small first batch. Thanks to its massive community of users, OpenClassrooms could end up converting its most loyal users into trainees.