Swiss apprenticeships recover from COVID-19 pandemic

Automation engineer in training, as seen in summer 2022 Keystone / Goran Basic

Every August, a new group of students start their apprenticeships in all parts of Switzerland. The desire to pursue vocational training remains strong despite the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, with experts indicating a return to pre-pandemic levels. Meanwhile, information technology and computer science had the highest percentage of available internship positions in 2022.

This content was published on 24 Aug 2022 – Jul 09:00,

Olivia Kingorst

Sinan Kaufman (15) was always attracted to airplanes and helicopters. From a young age, he became convinced that vocational training would be the most suitable path for him, which would enable him to work as a craftsman in the aviation sector.

Sinan Kaufman x

After visiting a job fair in Zurich in his freshman year of high school and navigating a number of job sites, he landed what seemed like a dream: a four-year automation apprenticeship with Swiss airline SWISS, which specializes in aircraft maintenance.

Kaufman is just one of thousands of students who will begin an internship this August. Despite two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, vocational education remains in high demand in Switzerland – where it is the most popular route for students to follow after completing compulsory education.

Lockdown measures for 2020, and subsequent work-from-home requirements have prompted most training programs to either cancel courses or continue them remotely via the Internet. Meanwhile, students struggled with the mismatch between distance e-learning and the hands-on approach that characterizes apprenticeships.

According to the latest figures released by the Pulse Apprenticeship Research ProjectExternal linkAt least 79% of the apprenticeship opportunities available for this year have been filled. In this context follows the report of the Council for Education Systems of the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich and the vocational training job platform Yousty.chExternal link Impact and potential long-term consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic on trainees and training companies in Switzerland. Although the percentage is somewhat lower compared to 2020 levels of 87%, the researchers suggest working towards a “return to normal”.

“What surprised us positively from the latest survey is that there seems to be a relatively quick recovery,” says Ursula Reynolds, professor of education systems at the Federal Institute of Technology Zurich and researcher in the Apprenticeship Research Project. Those entering the labor market can find more work after graduation than they did before the pandemic.”

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An apprenticeship in Switzerland combines personal learning at a vocational school with practical training at a company. The model is often described as successful and offers benefits such as lower youth unemployment and lower employment costs. It is estimated that around two-thirds of students aged 15-16 choose this path after completing compulsory education.

“It was always clear to me that I wanted to do apprenticeships so I could get a good start in the world of work. I always wanted to earn something to cover my own needs and be more independent at a young age,” says 17 – year old Vanessa Derringer She is an apprentice at the Swiss Postal Administration.

Vanessa Dirandinger X

Impact of the covid-19 pandemic

Several interns told SWI that the pilot apprenticeship – the ‘first viewing day’ to get an idea of ​​the company and responsibilities – was canceled during the pandemic. Others said there were no performances in their chosen field during the health crisis. For those who were able to get a training program, the challenges of working from home quickly became overwhelming and alarming.

“Apprentices usually spend three to four days a week in the company. Most of their training is on-site,” explains Marco Salvi, one of the employees at the company. External linkThink group “AExternal linkFener Swiss”External link.(Swiss Future). “Following an online apprenticeship has been more of a challenge for schools and universities than for apprentices,” he explains. “You can’t easily move a machine online. Working from home may be a boon for older workers, but not for apprentices.”

Reynolds agreed, noting that working from home had a “huge impact” on learners. A scan designed to measure the apprentice’s pulse detected a decrease in motivation levels and an increase in stress. “It can be assumed that the trainees who started their apprenticeship in 2020 suffered the greatest loss of competence, as they were exposed to the effects of the epidemic for two years and gained lost experiences,” says Reynolds.

But Irene Crissy, Co-Chair of Research and Strategic Planning for Vocational Education and Training at the Federal High School for Vocational TrainingExternal link, confirms that the overall impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on Swiss vocational training has been “mostly brief”. “The temporary decline in search behavior in young people,” she says [لفرص التدريب المهني] He quickly recovered in many occupations and returned to pre-pandemic levels.”

Required occupations

According to the State Secretariat for Education, Research and InnovationExternal linkMore than 45,100 apprenticeship contracts have been signed so far this year. Students can choose from more than 200 careers that lead to a Federal Vocational Training Diploma (CFC). On the other hand, a survey conducted by the Apprenticeship Research Project revealed that the fields of information technology and computer science recorded the highest rise among the jobs available in the last two years.

Alyssa Villiger (15) is about to start her IT apprenticeship at TIE International, an education company in Zug. Her education will include learning programming languages ​​for web design and blockchain technology. “I really liked it during the trial period and this profession also has a future,” says Villiger, who hesitated whether her training should be in the media technical field or in the commercial field (the most popular vocational training among young people). ). The latter varies depending on the sector and can include tasks from organizing meetings and managing expenses to advising clients.

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In contrast, the hotel and restaurant professions, including chefs, waiters and waitresses, continue to experience a severe shortage of apprentices and skilled staff. “Although the pandemic is not the only cause of this situation – unattractive working conditions, such as irregular and long working hours also play a role – it has the potential to worsen the situation,” says Chrissy.

Romy de Redeliegheid (18) started her apprenticeship at the Dolder Grad HotelExternal link Five star in Zurich in 2021. Attracted to the industry because of its international work environment and possibility to work abroad after training. “I was naturally apprehensive about starting my apprenticeship at such an uncertain time for the hospitality industry,” she says. Then she adds, “But I knew if I didn’t take that step, I would regret it at some point.”

Currently apprentice status

In general, it can be said that the rate of hiring at Swiss coaching firms is on the point of recovery. Swisscom Telecom plans to welcome 270 interns in August, an increase of 12 compared to summer 2021. Meanwhile, Swiss International Airlines welcomes 41 interns this year. A spokesperson for the company noted that while there was a “slight decrease” in the number of trainees in 2021, it has since recovered and returned to pre-pandemic levels.

To ensure its attractiveness in the future, companies such as the Swiss Post are promoting their apprenticeships on the social media platform Tik-Tok. The National Postal Service receives between 740 and 780 trainees each year. Of these, more than 400 are in logistics, 150 are in retail, and more than 60 are in the ICT department.

In addition, the department is developing new job profiles in line with market needs such as digitalisation. From 2023, the Swiss Post will offer new professional training as a digital business developer together with PostFinance and other companies.

In this regard, Salvi, a member of the Swiss Future think tank, explains this trend: “Content and curricula can be adapted to the future needs of the economy. This is one of the main strengths of the dual education system as in Switzerland.”

Ultimately, more efforts will be required to keep the Swiss apprenticeship model relevant on the international stage. Because “the Swiss method is very successful, but it is not easy to repeat this success abroad. In fact, there have been many failed attempts”, adds Salvi. “Unfortunately, the labor market is increasingly skewed towards formal education degrees. Our system will always need a lot of explanation in terms of potential international employers.”

Editing: Virginie Mangin

(Translated from English and edited by: Abdel Hafeez Al Abdali)

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