Connecting our Networks with the Swiss approach to training

Updated: Oct 16, 2019

Argentina, Costa Rica and Kenya: three countries, three different work-based learning systems. What do they hope to learn in Switzerland, the country where apprenticeships are deeply entrenched in the national culture?

Last month, we at GAN Global had the pleasure of peer to peer learning visits in Switzerland with our network coordinators from Cecilia Sleiman (Buenos Aires, Argentina), Maria del Mar Munguia (San José, Costa Rica), and Isaac Kiema (Nairobi, Kenya). Together, we visited and met with some of GAN’s global members and other entities in Geneva, that implement apprenticeships, to learn and be inspired from their experience.

In Switzerland, youth face an important choice at the end of their three compulsory years in lower secondary school. When moving to upper secondary school, they can either enrol in a high school (pre-university), or they can opt for vocational training, mostly in three or four-year dual programmes combining classroom with workplace training at a host company. The system is designed to allow young people to acquire theory and practice at the same time so they can develop the professional skillset that is in demand for the selected job market and paves the way into employment.

One of our visits was with the UBS team in Lausanne. Welcomed and guided by UBS Junior Talent Manager for Romandie, we learnt about UBS’s Junior Talent portfolio and their varied apprenticeship opportunities in all the most relevant areas of the bank. Rotations are a key component in this pathway. By taking on roles in different departments, learners gain a wide and comprehensive perspective that enables them to develop all core competencies to thrive in the financial world.

GAN visit to UBS Lausanne

From L. to R. : Isaac Kiema, Cecilia Sleiman (GAN Argentina), Anna Zongollowicz (GAN Global), Isabella Tramontana (UBS), Louis (UBS), Daniel Nicolet (UBS), Alice (UBS), Lucy Kitson (GAN Global), Maria del Mar Munguia (GAN Costa Rica), Silvia Rossini (GAN Global)

However, on our tour we did also learn that starting an apprenticeship does not preclude access to further specialization as a second stage – this aspect of duality that allows for fluidity between the education system and the workplace is unique to the Swiss model. When upper secondary level is completed, there is the option to move directly to tertiary level professional education or to begin at a later stage.

On the occasion of our visit to Firmenich, we had the chance to meet with former apprentices, who are now employees of the famous fragrance and family-owned company. One of them shared with us his own personal experience from laboratory technician to scientist. This route provided him with additional skills that allowed the young man to further grow within the company.

Visit to Firmenich

To finalize our programme on the Swiss apprenticeship system, we also visited the vocational education center, Geneva Industrial Union, CEP UIG-UNIA whose mandate is to train between 35 and 45 young apprentices per year in 7 professional fields related mainly to mechanics and electronics. At their first year at CEP, apprentices acquire basic knowledge underpinning their profession of choice, including getting familiar with relevant technology before gradually taking on more responsibilities. Starting in the second year, apprentices continue their training though workshops and classes as well as training on the job within a company.

Swiss companies view apprenticeships as a strategic manner to build their future talent, which is why they have a strong interest in investing in a trained and agile workforce. Some of those companies have set up apprenticeship programs abroad, paving the way for developing and implementing apprenticeship programs inspired by the Swiss model in their countries of operation.

Latin America holds a promising opportunity: youth. Although some progress has been recently made in the education field, growth has not always been coupled with stronger links to the labour market. A well-tested pathway to tackle skills shortages and mismatch is work-based learning (WBL) programs.

With the key learnings from our peer to peer learning exchange week in Geneva, GAN Argentina and GAN Costa Rica will be working jointly on urgent actions that go beyond local contexts and national borders, further raising awareness and advocating for better policies and a more favourable environment for WBL with a regional approach. Interested in finding out more? Follow us on Linkedin, Twitter and Facebook and subscribe to our newsletter.

Funding is provided by the United States Department of Labor under cooperative number IL-29557-16-75-K-1. 100% of the total costs of the project or program is financed with federal funds, for a total of 2,900,000 USD. The material does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the United States Department of Labor, not does mention of trade names, commercial products or organisations imply endorsement by the United States Government.