By Alasdair Sandford
BBC News, Paris
The government says schemes to train youth have worked well
It was called "Hope" or "Espoir" in French.
A year ago, President Nicolas Sarkozy launched a plan to shake up the "banlieue", the troubled areas on the fringes of many towns and cities that witnessed a wave of rioting in 2005.
A key aim was to help create 100,000 new jobs to tackle the high levels of youth unemployment, particularly among many young blacks and Arabs.
A year on, the government says progress is being made.
But critics argue that the plan is only benefiting a small minority, while the economic crisis is forcing companies to cut jobs rather than take people on.
Chance to learn
In a nondescript office in Argenteuil, three young people are being given a step-by-step guide to employment, from compiling a CV to how to impress at work.
The coaching session is part of a six-month course for jobless young people.
The town just outside is where Nicolas Sarkozy once famously described those getting into trouble on the housing estate as "rabble".
Melina, 21, who comes from the Caribbean, says the training has helped a lot.
"They highlighted my strong and weak points and worked on my motivation," she says.
"I learnt how to do research about jobs and prepare for interviews."
The course is run by USG Restart, a private agency partly funded by the government.
Improving young people's job prospects relies on companies to do their bit
It seeks out unqualified youngsters from housing estates where youth unemployment is as high as 40%.
"These are young people with difficulties, alienated from the world of work," says Sandrine Pal, the director.
"Their family entourage is disconnected from the real world.
"Our role is to give them what we call social codes to make them understand what the business world is about."
The government hopes that by signing up with specialised agencies like this, 45,000 young people from deprived areas will find work over three years.
Urban Affairs Minister Fadela Amara, whose Algerian parents grew up in the banlieue, says progress is being made after a slow start.
So far some 5,000 contracts have been signed.
The minister says that another part of the scheme - encouraging companies to take on thousands more youngsters directly - has yielded "extraordinary results".
11,500 young people have been employed on contracts of at least six months.
Along the High Street in Villiers-le-Bel there is no sign of the damage of 15 months ago.
Melina has been offered a job at the airport
Then, shopfronts were smashed up and cars set ablaze as tensions spilled over after two teenagers died in an accident with a police car.
Now, buildings have been repaired and rebuilt; money has poured into the area.
But at Mission Locale, a community advice centre run by the local authority, they say there has been little improvement in job prospects for the town's young unemployed.
Instead, crisis-hit companies have been shedding rather than recruiting staff.
The director, Marie-Michelle Pisani, says the centre had set up recruitment operations with large firms that had pledged to employ young people under the government's scheme.
"Five, six months later we have had no comeback on whether they are taking young people on, or if not, why not," she says.
Fode Sylla, a former head of SOS Racism and the first French member of the European Parliamen of African origin, reported on youth employment in the banlieue for the government advisory body, the Economic and Social Council.
He says he has been struck by the isolation of many Villiers-le-Bel residents, even though the town lies close to Paris.
"I met some young people who had never seen the Eiffel Tower," he says.
Mr Sylla believes many could be employed at the nearby Charles de Gaulle airport.
But for those without a car, poor public transport means a tortuous three-hour round trip via Paris.
Mr Sylla believes that the government's banlieue plan does not go far enough.
He recommends more intensive careers help for young people starting at school, and tax breaks to encourage companies to recruit from deprived areas.
Arguing that many French firms continue to shun people from estates with bad reputations, he wants those who are guilty of discrimination to be punished.
"It is not possible to have second, third generation young people who were born and live here in France and to continue to say 'they are immigrants, they are Arabs, they are Africans'," he insists.
"No, they are French, they don't know Dakar, they don't know Bamako, they don't know Algeria".
Results for some
In Argenteuil, Melina has encountered no such problems.
The coaching she has received has paid off.
She has been offered a six-month contract as an airport security agent.
"I was lacking self confidence before, but here they helped me progress," she says.
"It will stand me in good stead for the rest of my life."
The government's measures are clearly helping some people, although the critics say too few.
They still need convincing that this scheme, like so many other banlieue rescue plans in the past, will not vanish into obscurity.