Vocational training

Vocational training stimulates the rise of tertiary qualifications in Switzerland

The increase in the level of higher education has been particularly strong among women Keystone / Martin Ruetschi

According to an OECD study, the proportion of 25-34 year olds with higher education has doubled in Switzerland in 20 years, and at a faster rate than in many other countries. A key factor: professional training superior to Switzerland and diplomas for apprentices.

This content was published on October 4, 2022 – 18:15


Educational attainment has increased across the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), particularly at the tertiary level, its Education at a Glance 2022External link report released on Monday found.

Between 2000 and 2021, the share of 25-34 year olds with higher education qualifications increased by an average of 21 percentage points. In Switzerland, the share has increased “at an even faster pace”, by 27 percentage points (from 26% in 2000 to 52% in 2021), according to the OECD.

“The dramatic increase in educational attainment offers a unique opportunity to fuel economic and social progress in our countries,” OECD Secretary-General Mathias Cormann said in a statement. statementExternal link. “It is essential that countries continue to innovate and improve their education systems to ensure that everyone receives the benefits of a good education and acquires the skills they need to succeed.

The labor market benefits it brings to the job market, the report authors write, are an important driver of higher tertiary attainment. These include a lower average unemployment rate and higher earning capacity for tertiary graduates compared to their peers with upper secondary or lower secondary education. The increase in the level of higher education has been particularly strong among women, according to the OECD study.

Swiss case

In Switzerland, higher education is broad: it includes not only universities, but also higher-level professional qualifications, which can be followed after an apprenticeship (path taken by two thirds of young school leavers). This form of professional training is a Swiss specialty, but its programs and diplomas are less known abroad.

“The inclusion of this ‘vocational training’ among higher education qualifications increases our levels,” said Juerg Schweri, professor at the Federal University for Vocational Education (SFUVETExternal link). “Of course, these professional training degrees are generally of high quality and prepare for management positions (mainly in small and medium-sized companies), so it is not window dressing,” he told SWI. swissinfo.ch.

Switzerland is one of the 14 OECD countries where at least half of the 25-34 year olds have a higher education diploma.

A point to note, he said, is that in most countries, tertiary vocational degrees are for people with a general education who want to train in a certain professional area before entering the labor market. . In Switzerland, however, higher vocational training is intended for those who already have professional skills and market experience, but who wish to extend, deepen or complete them (for example, a carpenter to acquire commercial skills).

Special universities

A second reason for the high level and in particular the boom in higher education are the industrially oriented universities of applied sciences (UAS), which are part of the university sector along with the traditional universities and the universities of teacher education, he said. -he adds.

UAS offers bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Their main target group are also vocational education graduates, explained Schweri. To enter a SAMU, apprentices must pass an additional qualification, the vocational baccalaureate.

“The starting point is that in Switzerland, with its high share of apprenticeships at upper secondary level, increasing the level of higher education can only be achieved by creating educational paths from vocational training to higher education,” Schweri noted.

He added that while the OECD study concluded that tertiary education offers better job prospects, this does not mean that general (university) education trumps vocational education. Schweri was one of the authors of a studyExternal link last year, which found – in the Swiss context – that people who started as apprentices and went on to obtain a higher qualification had the highest labor market participation rate and the lowest unemployment rate.

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