The U.S. enters into an agreement with the Swiss government to apply their model of vocational education.

The U.S. Departments of Education, Labor and Commerce joined the Swiss government in signing a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on apprenticeships on Tuesday.

This agreement between the United States and Switzerland encourages businesses and stakeholders to promote apprenticeship programs and develop effective strategies to increase awareness of and access to work-based learning.

The U.S. Department of Education looks to learn from the Swiss model of apprenticeships and increase participation nationwide.

“Cooperating with the United States in the realm of vocational education and training helps to strengthen appreciation for Swiss vocational education and training abroad. In addition, it provides an opportunity to support Swiss businesses in the U.S. in finding skilled workers and to increase international visibility and recognition of Switzerland’s high-quality and labor market-relevant educational system,” said Josef Widmer
Deputy Director Swiss State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation

In Switzerland, the education sector partners closely with businesses to provide apprenticeships for students in a variety of professions. Two-thirds of current Swiss students pursue their education through one of the 250 types of government-recognized apprenticeships. Meanwhile, only 17 percent of U.S. students have worked in an internship or apprenticeship related to their career goals.

Picture credit – Swiss model for obtaining an apprenticeship type of education.

In recognition of the MOU’s signing on Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Education gives 15 fast facts about the Swiss Apprenticeship Programs:

  1. Most Swiss vocational programs are dual-tracked. Students participate in an apprenticeship for 3 to 4 days a week to gain hands-on experience and receive classroom instruction for the remainder of the school week.
  2. Vocational training is an integral part of the Swiss education system. Nearly 2/3 of young people in Switzerland choose to pursue a vocational program.
  3. The most popular Swiss vocational programs include: health care workers, social care workers, electricians, cooks, and IT specialists.
  4. Swiss upper secondary students can choose from approximately 250 vocational education programs. Some programs take 2 years to complete; other may take up to 4. All programs lead to an officially recognized diploma or certificate.
  5. A defining feature of the Swiss vocational education system is its close correlation with the labor market. Training is geared to actual demand for vocational qualifications and to available jobs.
  6. Swiss students who hold a vocational diploma or certificate can choose to further pursue professional education and training (PET), which provides specialization in a given field and preparation for highly technical and managerial roles.
  7. In Switzerland there are approximately 400 federal professional education and training (PET) examinations and 57 college degree programs.
  8. Swiss students who hold a federal vocational baccalaureate are entitled to enroll in any of Switzerland’s universities of applied sciences without having to take an entrance exam.
  9. 93% of Swiss students who are enrolled in pre-vocational or vocational programs are enrolled in joint vocational programs which combine both school and work-based elements.
  10. Swiss companies spend almost 1% of GDP/year on apprenticeships.
  11. Among reported companies, there is a 50-80% retention rate among apprentices.
  12. Companies start recruiting students in the 7th grade with apprenticeships starting in 10th grade.
  13. Even at a cost of $50K-$150K over 3-4 years, the businesses get a full return on their investment.
  14. Apprentices have multiple pathways post-apprenticeship including university, professional college, the workforce and more.
  15. Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos visited Switzerland in June and identified many ways Americans can learn from Switzerland’s Apprenticeships.

Below is a report that discusses the American-Swiss model identified in the MOU –


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Jeremy Spencer
Jeremy Spencer grew up in rural South Georgia and has served as a healthcare provider, high school science teacher, school administrator, and state education official. Jeremy is currently the market and content manager for All on Georgia-Camden and Glynn Counties. Jeremy’s focus is local news, statewide education issues, and statewide political commentary for the All on Georgia News Network. Jeremy has served as an education policy analyst for local legislators and state education leaders as well as a campaign strategist for local and statewide political campaigns. Jeremy holds degrees in science and education from the University of Georgia, Piedmont College, and Valdosta State University. Jeremy has lived in Camden County for over 17 years.


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