The power of apprenticeship systems

Recently, I have been trying to learn more about the German/Swiss Apprenticeships Systems.

There is much to learn.

After receiving a pointer from Ralph Eichler, President of ETH Zurich (, I fortunately now have a guide Dr.Ursula Renold, Head of Division Comparative Education Systems, ETH Zurich, KOF Swiss Economic Institute.

Here is what I have learned from Ursula so far:

“ your questions:
1. Adopting the Swiss (or even also the German) dual-track VET approach in other countries is very difficult, complex and time-consuming. That’s why ETHZ decided to create my research division. We are convinced that other countries need to go in this direction in order to avoid “lost generations” (this is actually the big topic in Europe).

A first pilot project where we realized a dual-track pathway similar to what we have in Switzerland was done in India (Pune and Bangalore) in the field of manufacturing industry (2006-2010). There we have a proof of concept. I’m currently writing together with other people involved a book about this initiative. With several other countries we are in discussion (Sweden, Morocco, China, Russia, US (via pathway to prosperity project run by Harvard Graduate school of Education and Jobs for the Future JFF –> see contact below).

2. With African countries we didn’t have any project until know. With Morocco we just start a discussion.

3. Efforts in the US: I was for 6 month at Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE). They are running the “pathways to properity” project –>

9 US states are involved: Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Missouri, North Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, New York and California. If you need further information please contact Nancy Hoffman, at Jobs For the Future (  Nancy wrote a very good book that explained why US states should adapt the Swiss apprenticeship model –> Nancy Hoffman, Schooling in the workplace, how six of the world’s best Vocational Education Systems prepare Young people for jobs and Life (Harvard Education Press), Cambridge, 2011

In line with this project we just started a research project (online survey) in 5 US states (NY, TN, IL, MA, MO) in order to identifying the potential of the business sector as new educational actor (the involvement of companies/business sector is a pre-condition for an adaption of a Swiss or German apprenticeship model).

Some papers concerning Swiss VET system
In addition to the above-mentioned answers I send you some information about our Vocational Education and Training (VET) system and some pointers to literature that may be of interest for you.

– Entering the Labor market (Start ins Berufsleben)
– Facts & Figures 2012
– OECD Learning for Jobs, Switzerland
– Professional Education (tertiary level)
– Why Some Firms Train Apprentices and Many Others Do Not; about cost-benefit-study of apprenticeship in Switzerland

Hope this provides the starting point you are looking for in your studies.”

It really has provided a great starting point, many thanks!  🙂


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