Case Study

Rafaela Portmann

Automation Technician at Mechatronik Schule Winterthur – MSW, Winterthur, Switzerland

“Switzerland has a very good education system. I’m doing an apprenticeship as an automation technician because I didn’t want to attend high school. Nevertheless, all doors are still open for me and I can go to college thanks to  my vocational diploma.”

Swiss Vocational Education and Training (VET)

Apprenticeship training in Switzerland has a long-standing tradition. Today, VET is the predominant form of high school education in Switzerland. About 65% of all young people are in a VET program. Most VET courses are offered through the company-based dual-track system, so-called because there are two places of learning — a vocational school for general education and a host company for practical training.

Education in Switzerland is a holistic system geared towards the needs of the labor market. It is largely due to VET that Switzerland has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the world, and that its companies are successful both at home and in the global marketplace.

In Switzerland, VET programs of two, three or four years exist in approximately 230 occupations in all fields of industry, including commerce, hospitality and agriculture. Students are employed by a host company in their vocational area throughout the program. Those who wish to get a university degree following their apprenticeship may do so after fulfilling certain scholastic requirements.

The strength of Switzerland’s VET system can be attributed to the following characteristics:

  • The system is strongly driven by companies and market. Theoretical instruction and practical training are directly linked to company requirements.
  • VET is not the realm of low achievers but regarded as a desirable entry point to a promising career.
  • VET offers career opportunities to participants since they have the relevant hard and soft skills, and hands-on experience.
  • The Swiss system is permeable, allowing people who have done VET to later get an academic degree and vice versa. In this sense, no person is locked into a single professional path and can move between educational systems with relative ease.

Swiss VET is a joint mission of the public and private sectors. The tasks are shared among the Swiss Confederation that functions as the overall regulatory body in charge of quality assurance; the industry associations that define the training content; the 26 cantons that supervise implementation; and the host companies that hire apprentices under special training contracts.