How Skillsonics exports the Swiss learning model to India

Skillsonics has already trained 5000 Indians according to Swiss learning methods. Franz Probst, its founder and president, presents the necessary adjustments to the Swiss model, as well as its ambitions in Bangladesh, Brazil and South Africa

Emerging countries are not only interested in the dual training model. They implement it. This is the case of India. Skillsonics collaborates with state departments and Swiss companies to “export Swiss apprenticeship to this continent,” according to Franz Probst, founder and chairman of the company responsible for making the Swiss learning model available to companies in India.

“Bobst was our flag bearer, one of the top four companies that played the game,” he tells us in Zurich. ABB, Bühler, Rieter and others, Swiss, German and now Indian have trained 5,000 Indians according to the Swiss apprenticeship model, he says. 500 have completed more than one year of training, while others have shorter courses lasting from one week to six months to meet specific needs.

The need for strong growth

Skillsonics, present in 25 locations in India, plays the role of “facilitator of this transfer of know-how,” according to Franz Probst. It does not create an additional training institute but offers “software”, namely an English curriculum, exam system, engagement criteria and certification.

Specifically, companies pay Skillsonics for its service, which pays a commission to Swissmem and the Confederation. His model needs a strong growth of students. “In 2016, we will reach 6,000 apprentices. We need to increase the number of students by 1,000 per year to achieve balance, “argues Franz Probst.

It all started in 2007 with the Federal Office for Vocational Training and Technology (OFFT) and the need expressed by Swiss companies present in India that belonged to the Swiss machinery industry (Swissmem), explains Franz Probst, at President of the Swiss-Indian Chamber of Commerce.

“India fascinates me. I’ve been to school since 1965. I was ten, “says Probst. His father had already participated in the installation of Rieter in this country. The president of Skillsonics is also a business lawyer in Winterthur and Zurich, “my real livelihood, a job that rarely offers adventures to participate in innovation,” he observes.

Profitable and sustainable knowledge transfer

The export of Swiss apprenticeship is conditional on a sustainable and profitable transfer of knowledge. The challenge is threefold: “The private sector must take over from the Confederation, which can not finance it permanently. India must collaborate. Finally, Switzerland and India must work hand in hand and form a bilateral team, “he says. Recall that Switzerland and India, despite ongoing discussions, have not yet reached bilateral agreement in the field of vocational training.

One hundred professional trainings are on the program. Skillsonics is preparing for the introduction of two new courses: Sanitary Installer and CFC Trade Employee. The latter is addressed not only to companies of machines but to all branches.

Local adjustments

The Swiss model implemented in India is not quite identical to the original Swiss version. “It has to be adapted to the local context,” says Franz Probst. In Switzerland, the system is based on the needs of the labor market, and therefore of the private economy. A Swiss polymechanic training requires many skills and four years of training. Such a period does not meet any demand in India. The course is present on the list of 100 courses offered, but only takes two years. The reference is lower. “It must be designed to be adapted to young people in rural areas, who have a different philosophy of life,” explains Franz Probst. Training begins with learning English, teamwork, time organization, the importance of punctuality.

In India, courses, usually two years old, are offered to young people a little older than in Switzerland, after two years of training at the ITI (Industrial Training Institute).

In India, training meets more specific needs. For example, a Swiss welder is responsible for machine preparation, material selection and even final control. An Indian welder only manages one step. The system is also more segmented according to the duration of the courses.

Limited grants

The Confederation participated in the project through the State Secretariat for Education and Innovation (SERI), which allows the financing of projects up to 60%. Set up in 2008, the program was subsidized until the end of 2012. The state paid half, “less than five million,” according to Franz Probst. The rest was provided by companies and Skillsonics. The latter was created in 2011, before, in 2013, National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) became part of its capital. The latter is an investment vehicle, privately managed, financed by the Ministry of Finance in the amount of $ 200 million. Indian regulations have also been adapted to allow the dual system.

The success rate for exams for new courses exceeds 90%. “They are not easy,” according to Franz Probst. “In 2015, Swissmem offered to lighten them, which we refused to guarantee their quality,” he adds.

Now in Bangladesh

The difficulties encountered by Skillsonics in exporting Swiss apprenticeship resemble those of start-ups. The organization is small. It has only 24 employees. The second challenge is to “convince local businesses that adopting the model is an investment (not a cost) and that it increases competitiveness and productivity,” says Franz Probst. “However, I do not believe that Indian companies will compete with Switzerland soon. Conversely, Swiss companies can not focus on mass products and must invest in low-cost markets, “says the lawyer.

Competitive projects at Skillsonics exist. Germans, English and Australians also bring their own models. Skillsonics is trying to introduce it to South Africa and Brazil. She has just started in Bangladesh with a Swiss company, which does not want to be named yet.