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Apprenticeship (alternate on-the-job experience and school or training centre) can begin at the age of 16. Generally speaking, it isn't a particularly good system (the German one is much more highly spoken of - it would be interesting to dig deeper to find out why).
There are also professional high schools that dispense both general and vocational education. Quality is very variable. In my local small town, the lycée professionnel specialising in agricultural mechanics is excellent and places are hard to get. OTOH, not far away there are schools offering hairdressing or "sanitary" careers (cleaning bedpans) to girls who have been sidelined from general education. Options to join professional high schools may be taken up at the end of seventh grade at the earliest. For many kids, they represent exclusion, and the option is not taken up willingly.
Professional subjects can be studied for the "bac" (baccalaureate, or high school diploma, sort of) at a professional or general high school, and both types of high school offer higher technician diplomas that are studied for in two years after the "bac". These cover a wide range of professional topics and know-how. They are not particularly "hands-on" and are criticised by employers as too "schoolish" - but employers are also supposed to take these students in as interns and contribute to their practical training, which a lot of them are reluctant to do, so one wonders why they complain... Professional options can be studied in two-year technical college, too.
Then there are the superior establishments that train future professionals - medical, dentistry, pharmacy, veterinary, and all the excellent schools for engineers that are part of the grandes écoles.
Unfortunately, the above is a sketch of French society as reproduced in a fairly standard fashion by its educational system.
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