Iris Krebs, Susi Lindig, Glas Trösch AG © SERI

The Swiss Vocational and Professional Education System

Vocational training is an integral part of the Swiss education system. It begins at the upper-secondary level, with pupils having the option of continuing through to tertiary level. It is characterised by a high degree of permeability: pupils may pursue more advanced education and training opportunities and later change the course of their working lives with relative ease.

After completing their compulsory education, around two-thirds of young people in Switzerland opt for the vocational route. Most VET programmes are of the dual-track variety: serving an apprenticeship for three to four days a week to learn the trade in practice and the rest of the time receiving classroom tuition on the theoretical aspects at a trade (VET) school.

There are around 250 officially recognised basic VET programmes in Switzerland to choose from. The most popular occupations are: commercial employee, retail employee, health care worker, social care worker, electrician, cook and IT specialist. The duration of the programmes varies depending on the occupation but can last from two to four years. These programmes lead to a federal VET diploma or a federal VET certificate, both of which are recognised nationwide.

The next level is professional education and training (PET). It enables holders of a VET qualification to specialise in a given field and prepares them for highly technical and managerial roles. There are around 400 federal PET examinations as well as 57 PET college degree programmes in eight different professional fields. Holders of a federal vocational baccalaureat are entitled to enroll in any of Switzerland’s universities of applied sciences without having to take an entrance examination.

International Cooperation in Vocational Education and Training

The internationalisation of education and labour poses challenges for the Swiss system of vocational and professional education and training (VPET). Switzerland has therefore taken active steps at multiple levels to address this phenomenon. With the aim of further strengthening the position of Swiss dual-track VET programmes at international level, the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI) is taking corresponding measures in coordination with the cantons and professional organisations.

By working with other countries in the area of vocational education and training, the Confederation pursues three parallel objectives that each reinforce and intensify the impact of the others:

  1. Strengthening the Swiss VPET system within an international context
  2. Supporting socioeconomic development in partner countries
  3. Successfully positioning Switzerland at the international level

The IC-VPET activities of the various federal agencies have a strategic basis in several policy areas (education, development cooperation, foreign affairs, economics and migration).
For SERI priorities of ERI policy include promoting the cosmopolitan character of Swiss vocational education and training, raising its profile abroad and facilitating the international exchange of knowledge and experience. Emphasis is placed on achieving the international recognition of Swiss vocational and professional qualifications and on encouraging mobility of the VPET stakeholders.
International exchanges serve the purpose of monitoring trends and maintaining the quality of the Swiss VPET system.

Swiss South African Hospitality Apprenticeship Programme SSHAP

Hopsitality Apprenticeship Programme
Hopsitality Apprenticeship Programme © FDFA

The National Business Initiative (NBI) in collaboration with the Embassy of Switzerland has been building a programme to expand opportunities for young people to enter into, and be employed in, the South African hospitality industry. Working in partnership with the Federated Hospitality Association of South Africa (FEDHASA) and public TVET Colleges, the programme seeks to unlock workplace learning and employment opportunities across the hospitality industry and support TVET College students to transition into these opportunities.
The programme seeks to enable unemployed youth who have not been through a TVET qualification to gain access into entry level learning and employment opportunities.

The hospitality industry offers a range of entry-level opportunities which do not require a protracted qualification. 

Traditional Hospitality Roles

The programme targets the following entry-level roles:

  • Front Office
  • Food and Beverage
  • Housekeeping

This programme, named the Swiss South African Hospitality Apprenticeship Programme SSHAP, has been initiated by the Embassy of Switzerland and built in partnership with the Swiss-based Hotel and Tourism Management Institute (HTMI). In line with the Swiss model of dual apprenticeship, this programme is delivered through dual training – 1 day in institutional training in a TVET College every fortnight with the rest of the training taking place in the hospitality establishments, through workplace mentors, over a 6 month period.
A first pilot cohort with 37 apprentices has been implemented in Gauteng in 2019 together with the Park Inn Sandton, the Hilton Sandton and the Hyatt Rosebank.

Hospitality Maintenance Roles                                                                            

As part of its work in expanding access to artisanal roles, NBI has been working in partnership with the property industry to develop short skills programmes in Infrastructure Maintenance.  These programmes prepare young people to be General Repairers (Handypersons) for both domestic and commercial environments. This programmes comprises 3 months of institutional training in a TVET College and 9 months of workplace training in a hospitality establishment under the mentorship of a maintenance manager.
Through both of these programmes, NBI seeks to support TVET Colleges to shift towards a demand-driven approach to skills delivery, focusing on preparing young people with the necessary practical and work readiness skills for rapid entry into these jobs.

The project seeks to improve the employability of youth and thus help reduce youth unemployment. The project will deliver the following:

  • Increased employability and successful employment for youth in the hospitality industry.
  • Demonstrate a successful model of delivery of hospitality skills through a Dual Apprenticeship model with increased industry participation.
  • Build strong partnerships with hotel groups to grow employment opportunities for unemployed youth.