Posts Tagged ‘Switzerland’

Inside International CTE: Switzerland Part Two

Thursday, March 26th, 2015
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A Swiss manufacturing apprentice demonstrates his work. Photo courtesy of Heather Singmaster.

Today Heather Singmaster continues her interview with Ursula Renold, head of the Education Systems field of research in the KOF Swiss Economic Institute on the Swiss vocational education and training system (VET or career and technical education system as we call it here in the U.S.). This is presented in partnership with Asia Society’s Global Learning blog on Ed Week .

Many consider the Swiss system one of the best in the world. But every system has its challenges – what are yours? What are some solutions you are looking to implement?

There are specific areas we have identified as challenges and solutions we are pursuing:

Demographic changes: We have an aging workforce and not enough students to replace them in the VET system. Therefore, we are looking at ways to “re-tool” all employees and raise their productivity with further education.

Potential perception issues: We continue to fear that too many parents will insist their children pursue a university pathway instead of the VET pathway, thereby weakening the economy (something experienced by Denmark, which also had a strong apprenticeship program). An international dialog and exchange of knowledge on the importance of VET competences to close the 21st century middle skills gap is one of the solutions to this problem. Another route is to connect the worldwide community of scholars and experts, which could provide the evidence and the rationale for well-balanced educational diversity.

Globalization: The increase of international companies working in Switzerland threatens the VET system. These companies do not have a tradition of VET and are therefore less supportive of the system. It is very important to launch an information campaign for multi-national companies and newcomers to Switzerland who are not familiar with the VET system so that they can understand the comparatively outstanding outcomes of our VET system.

What do you think the future of VET/CTE in your country looks like?

I am confident our VET system will evolve in line with the changes in the world of work because of the role industry associations play in defining curriculum content and educational standards. These partners will continue to adapt those frameworks to meet the future needs of their industries every three to five years. Due to the fact that technology-forward companies often advance such revisions, small to medium size companies will continue to profit from spillover effects because they too will have to apply the best available technology if they would like to offer an apprenticeship. We also anticipate apprenticeships forming in new and additional industries if there is a need due to the high flexibility of our system.

What advice do you have for other systems attempting to reform their VET/CTE systems? What are some of the policies in Switzerland that could assist others in overcoming the challenges they face in VET/CTE?

That’s maybe the most difficult question. There is no simple solution for other countries. One has to take into consideration the context and ecosystem of a country. But there is one crucial aspect, which should be carefully analyzed: What is the link between education and employment systems – e.g. governance, curriculum design and curriculum application? According to my experience, most countries that are trying to reform their CTE/VET system are struggling with this issue and do not know how to bridge education and employment systems in an effective way. Therefore, our Swiss Economic Institute (ETHZ) is launching a policy development program for education policy leaders that includes a summer policy seminar to help participants to tackle these problems and to assist them in building capacity in their own region. For more information please contact me: ursula.renold@kof.ethz.ch

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Katie Fitzgerald, Communications Associate

By Katie Fitzgerald in News
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Inside International CTE: CTE in Switzerland

Tuesday, March 24th, 2015

Today Heather Singmaster interviews Ursula Renold, head of the Education Systems field of research in the KOF Swiss Economic Institute on the Swiss vocational education and training system (VET or career and technical education system as we call it here in the U.S.). This is the second in our series on international best practice in career and technical education (CTE), presented as part of our ongoing partnership with Asia Society’s Global Learning blog on Ed Week . 

1. What is the progression of Vocational Education and Training (VET)/CTE in Switzerland?

Please see the chart below as well.

Students chose at age 15 if they want to pursue a traditional university route or if they will follow the vocational education pathway. All young people from eighth grade on have access to comprehensive guidance counselling. This includes access to a national, online database of available apprenticeships, career testing to see where their skills match to job or academic requirements and then assistance with applying for an apprenticeship. VET students will learn and work at an apprenticeship for three or four years, while simultaneously continuing their studies in math, science, languages, etc. These studies are tied to their career – so they are learning in the classroom and then applying those skills on the job every week.

When they finish they earn either a Certificate (for the two-year apprenticeships) or a diploma (for three- or four-year apprenticeships). More academically gifted young adults can earn a Federal Vocational Baccalaureate degree at the same time as or after the apprenticeship. This will allow them to enter directly into a University of Applied Sciences, which is a university that specializes in applied research and development. With an additional year of general education, young adults with a Federal Vocational Baccalaureate can even enter directly in a conventional university.

We have built in a high degree of permeability in the system, which allows for a multitude of career pathways for young people. There are no dead ends. With every degree there comes further education options, thus VET is a very solid foundation for lifelong learning

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2. Please describe the landscape of Career Technical Education/VET in Switzerland:

Two out of three young adults are enrolled in VET/CTE, compared to the 25 percent of young adults who pursue the traditional university route after leaving compulsory school. However, we found that many of those students end up switching over to the vocational education pathway after a year of university or vice versa. Those with a VET background may continue their studies at universities.

Switzerland offers around 230 VET pathways for young adults between the ages of 15 and 19. The most popular VET sector is the commercial sector, covering about 25 percent of all apprenticeships and including industries such as banking, finance, manufacturing, retail and travel. Other highly favored VET pathways are health care and information technology (IT).

The VET system is run and paid for by three partners working together – the federal government (or Confederation), the states (26 Cantons) and around 600 professional organizations representing industry. Both the government and the education community are clear that the system works because it is designed to meet the needs of industry. Therefore, the VET system enjoys enormous support from the employer community. The government works closely with business to set the standards and design the curriculum, putting industry associations in the driver seat for setting program expectations and content.

Business also provides the apprenticeships and pays for more than half of the cost of the system because they regard the apprenticeship as a mid-term investment in their future workforce. Periodic cost-benefit analyses show that the costs are offset by the productivity of the apprentices during the two-, three-, or four-year apprenticeships. Employers see the system as beneficial both to themselves as well as to the students who gain experience, are paid good wages (averaging between US$700 – $1,000/month) and are treated with respect as adults.

3. What are the major goals of VET/CTE in Switzerland?

Among others, the VET/CTE system should provide young professionals with the knowledge and skills relevant to the labor market so that they easily find a well-paying and satisfying job. The VET system should articulate the skills required by the labor market. Hence, the VET system has to secure the volume of labor market quantitatively and qualitatively that is necessary for prosperity and social development.

Come back on Thursday for part two when Ursula discusses the common challenges of CTE/VET in Switzerland and the world and provides advice on overcoming them.

Follow NASDCTEc, Heather, and Asia Society on Twitter.

Katie Fitzgerald, Communications Associate

By Katie Fitzgerald in News, Resources
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