Former apprentices have risen to lead major banks, and even the country. Switzerland’s famed apprenticeship system is often held up as the “gold standard” in vocational training and is the number one choice for young people.This content was published on March 10, 2020 – 13:27March 10, 2020 – 13:27 Isobel Leybold-Johnson Philip Schaufelberger (illustration)Other languages: 4 (EN original)
Famous figures who have gone through the system include the CEO of Switzerland’s largest bank UBS, Sergio Ermotti and Finance Minister Ueli Maurer, who started out as a commercial clerk at a farming cooperative.
Ermotti has said that he carries the lessons learned from his apprenticeship, which took place over 40 years ago in a bank in his home town of Lugano, to this day.
“I was executing trades and big orders. And despite my youth, I was given opportunities to push myself and succeed,” he says in “Jobs Now. Vocational education and training Swiss-style”, a 2017 report which features portraits of Swiss CEOS who started as apprentices. “It taught me how to behave in an adult world. I learned to appreciate the value of attention to detail in my work and how every job had many different parts to it, each as important in their own way.”
Switzerland’s dual system combines learning on the job – and being paid a learning wage – with one to two days of theory at school. Around two thirds of Swiss school leavers opt for an apprenticeship.
And there are 230 vocational professions to choose from, ranging from catering to high-tech industries.
More What careers did Switzerland’s students choose this year?This content was published on Jun 25, 2019Around 85,000 young people had to make a decision about which profession to train in this year. A survey reveals big differences between the sexes.
However, some parents and students feel that young people are forced to make a career choice too early. How can a young person know what they want to do in life aged 14, they argue. But experts say doing an apprenticeship young offers valuable life experience and there is always the option of changing course later on.
More Are 14-year-olds ready to make a career choice?This content was published on Apr 16, 2019Students make big decisions about their professional futures at a young age in Switzerland. Too early, or just right?
There is pressure in some quarters – particularly among expats and professionals – for children to go down the academic route for prestige reasons. Currently only around 20% of pupils go on to study at universities.
But the Swiss authorities remain steadfast in their faith in the apprenticeship system and regularly promote its benefits abroad. Switzerland has hosted a major international congress on vocational and professional education and training (VPET). The last such congress, held in 2018 in Winterthur, was attended by representatives from Singapore, Mozambique and India, for example.
More Swiss vocational training serves as a model for othersThis content was published on Jun 4, 2018Singapore, the United States and Mozambique: three countries, three very different apprenticeship experiences.
And there has been international recognition: the often-cited “gold standard” label comes from a 2015 Harvard-backed study that deemed Switzerland top in an international comparative study of vocational education systems.
More The Swiss apprentice: biggest event of its kind shows off “Swiss Skills”This content was published on Sep 14, 2018Visitors to the Swiss capital, Bern, have been finding out for themselves what it’s like to work as an apprentice.
So who is interested in the Swiss way? The United States for one: in 2016 President Donald Trump signed an executive order pledging $200 million (CHF193.6 million) in funding to create more apprenticeships. Swiss companies, like Bühler or Daetwyler, have been pushing Swiss-style apprenticeship schemes in their US-based subsidiaries.
“There seems to be a bigger push from the governments, State and Federal, in the last three years,” said Michael Taylor, apprenticeship and training manager at Bühler Aeroglide in North Carolina, in a recent interview with swissinfo.ch. “People are starting to see the benefit of the combination of work experience and education. Most of all having a career with no college debt.”
More How Swiss experience is helping the US embrace apprenticeshipsThis content was published on Sep 23, 2019There’s a maturing effort in the United States to build a talented pipeline of workers for factories of the future.
The British government pledged in 2015 to create three million more apprenticeships by 2020. (It has since said this ambitious aim is not on track). English businesses would also benefit from a Swiss-style apprenticeship system that starts earlier and lasts longer, a 2018 report co-authored by Stefan Wolter, a leading Swiss education expert, found.
More Can England learn from Swiss apprenticeships?This content was published on Apr 21, 2018English businesses would benefit from a Swiss-style apprenticeship system that starts earlier and lasts longer, say Swiss experts.
And the Swiss are regularly placed among the top three nations in the WorldSkills competition – a kind of Olympics for trade skills, held every two years. Participants are seen as ambassadors of the vocational system, Swiss team officials have told us.
More Young Swiss professionals shine at WorldSkillsThis content was published on Aug 27, 2019Switzerland has won 16 medals, including five gold, at the WorldSkills competition – a kind of Olympics for trade skills – in Kazan in western Russia.
But does it work to export the Swiss system abroad?
Education policy makers, and the broader public in many countries, including the US and the UK for example, still see university as the “gold standard” for career success, our reporting suggests. But many countries want to take some learnings from the Swiss example.
A change in mind-set was still needed towards vocational training, said Ong Ye Kung, Singapore’s minister for education, in a 2018 interview during the VPET conference. While some progress had been made in Singapore, he said that officials needed to encourage more companies to train their workforces.
“At the heart of it, our aim is to develop a system of diverse pathways, where our young can choose from options within the spectrum of academic learning and apprenticeship-based vocational training, and find a path that suits them, plays to their strengths, and helps them chart fulfilling careers,” he said.
More Apprenticeships provide opportunities for young Serbs This content was published on Mar 27, 2019Forty percent of young people in Serbia are unemployed. Now the country has introduced apprenticeships, with Swiss assistance.
Articles in this story
- The American Dream remains within reach — in Switzerland
- Apprenticeships require trust in teens
- Apprenticeship system
- What careers did Switzerland’s students choose this year?
- Are 14-year-olds ready to make a career choice?
- Swiss vocational training serves as a model for others
- The Swiss apprentice: biggest event of its kind shows off “Swiss Skills”
- How Swiss experience is helping the US embrace apprenticeships
- Can England learn from Swiss apprenticeships?
- Young Swiss professionals shine at WorldSkills
- Apprenticeships provide opportunities for young Serbs