The Swiss Teaching for the World

The dream of many young people in developing and emerging countries is to rise economically and socially. The way out of poverty is a sound vocational education. A Swiss-Indian company Skillsonics has already enabled over 5,000 young Indians to receive training based on Swiss vocational training. Franz Probst, the founder of the company, is not an altruist but a pragmatist. His company should be profitable, he says. Because: “Only if the economic success is also sustainable”, so Probst. That’s why he negotiates with business partners rather than development organizations and dependent aid recipients. Mary Sagaya is 21, single, and has a dream. She would like to train as a vocational school teacher mechanics and technicians. Their desire is still a long way off, but the chances of realizing it are good. Today Mary is in her second year of training as a poly mechanic (Multi Skilled Production Technician) at the Swiss branch of grain mill manufacturer Buhler in Bangalore, India. The training lasts two years – half of the week Mary spends in the training workshop and the other in the classroom. The apprentice’s salary amounts to 8300 Indian rupees per month, the equivalent of 130 francs. This is significantly more than the average Indian wage of around 90 francs a month. Mary can support her family with it. The fact that the young woman travels this training path is a rarity in India, where today only just two percent of all working people have undergone vocational training. Thanks to Franz Probst, a lawyer from Winterthur. So far, he has taught more than 5,000 young Indians an apprenticeship – by 2022 it is said to be one million. As the Indian government plans to train up to 500 million professionals by 2023, its commitment is on fertile ground. Probst sits in his office with twelve employees and tells in a mixture of Bern and Zurich German from India, where he has spent part of his schooling. The country and its people are close to the heart of the 60-year-old. He is a philanthropist with a vision: “Everyone should be able to earn a decent living in the 21st century.” The beginning of this path is to be made in India. But Franz Probst does not want to be a benefactor. He also wants to earn money.

The idea

behind Switzerland In order to achieve its goal, it has founded the company SkillSonics with Indian partners. The company adapts Swiss teaching to Indian needs. There are a total of 100 different vocational training courses offered by the company – and there are more and more. Not only apprentices, but also vocational teachers are didactically and practically trained and teaching aids are developed. The fact that Probst was able to win over the influential federation of the Swiss machinery industry (Swissmem) as well as India’s most powerful Indian vocational training organization, which is affiliated with more than 4,000 vocational schools, is not only due to its lovable nature – its company has an excellent reputation in India ,
The official Switzerland also has an interest in promoting dual Swiss vocational training worldwide. It wants to increase the reputation of Switzerland as a place to work and to work. The underlying idea: The expansion of vocational training in India should promote economic relations. Last but not least, Swiss companies in India also have an interest in well-trained specialists, because they are not so easy to find in India.

Academic glut instead of craftsmen

When the water pipe drips, you can quickly find someone who stuffs the leak. Whether the line is still tight after a day is another matter. For decades, the emphasis in the Indian education system has been on academic education. Teaching, as we know it in Switzerland, does not exist in India. This is taking its revenge today. The country is flooded by academics, while there are hardly any skilled artisans. The reason: The practical training has a bad image. This is seen as training that “only” leads to a “blue collar” profession of getting one’s hands dirty – a job that offers no career opportunities. Probst therefore knows that there is a lot of persuasion to do. This starts with the companies: “The realization that the training of employees pays off, matures only when companies see that they can produce better quality products with professionals.” Optimistic Probst agrees that the demand for “Swiss Skills” who enjoy a superb image in professional circles in India and whom he offers, is constantly increasing. This is due to a strategic coup that Probst has succeeded in: The National Skills Development Corporation (NSDC), which is working to promote vocational training in India, has joined as a partner in SkillSonics.

"Vocational training not just private"

The classic development cooperation between Switzerland and India was stopped in 2010 after more than fifty years. The country that sent a probe to Mars in 2013 is rightfully no longer considered a developing country. It is in the middle of industrialization and has the potential to become an economic world power.
The impact of past development aid in India is controversial: the Swiss Federal Audit Office, which examined the sustainability of Swiss development projects in India in 2013, came up with devastating results.
State intervention in India enjoys little credit in the population. He is considered sluggish, inefficient and corrupt. Greater is the trust in the entrepreneurs, which also benefits Probst’s company. It promises to produce better educated professionals than the Indian state. For probst, however, it is clear that you can not leave the training private. “It needs a supervision, which ensures that the training is not limited to the specific needs of each company and qualitative standards and duties of care are met,” said the entrepreneur. That’s why Skillsonics works closely with VET organizations.

Not yet profitable

The Indian subsidiary of the Swiss engineering group ABB now trains twice as many apprentices with the help of SkillSonics as it did two years ago. Nevertheless, SkillSonics alone does not earn enough with Indian subsidiaries of Swiss companies, which still make up a large proportion of its customers today. He has to get the apprenticeship that Probst needs for blacks in Indian companies. For each apprentice who completes a two-year course, Skillsonics receives 900 francs from the company. With today’s 200 apprentices, the cost of teaching materials and quality control is not covered – it takes 800 apprentices per year. However, there is no lack of potential: Twelve million young people enter the labor market every year.

Worldwide interest

Although as a lawyer he has never learned the lesson personally, Franz Probst is convinced of Swiss vocational training. “Craft still has a golden ground,” he is convinced. Today he is in negotiations with companies and organizations in South Africa and Brazil who are interested in “Swiss Skills”. And where does Franz Probst get the energy from, sometimes difficult negotiations and cross-cultural bridges? His answer is simple: “I want to do something meaningful in life and leave traces.”

About SkillSonics Skillsonics'

work dates back to 2008. At that time, Federal Councilor Doris Leuthard launched the “Swiss Vocational Education and Training Initiative India” (SVETII) as a public-private pilot project in India. The Skillsonics team led the project, which was partly funded by the Federal State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation. In 2012 Franz Probst founded SkillSonics. Its partners include the Swiss Engineering, Electrical and Metallurgical Industry Association (Swissmem) and the Swiss Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training.