15 Fast Facts about the Swiss Apprenticeship Program

This morning, the U.S. Departments of Education, Labor and Commerce joined the Swiss government in signing a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on apprenticeships. This agreement will build upon ongoing collaboration between the United States and Switzerland to encourage businesses and stakeholders to promote the value of apprenticeship programs and develop effective strategies to increase awareness of and access to work-based learning.

While you may be familiar with apprenticeship programs in the United States, there is a lot to know about Switzerland’s programs. In recognition of this morning’s MOU signing, here are 15 fast facts about the Swiss Apprenticeship Program:

  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.


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