SwissSkills: who are Switzerland’s best apprentices?
Switzerland’s vocational education and training – often considered a model for others – is being showcased at a huge national event in Bern. The aim: to show that apprenticeships are as vital as ever.
For SwissSkills, which starts on Wednesday, the BERNEXPO exhibition centre has been transformed into a temporary “factory” of 150 professions, complete with mocked-up authentic environments, More than 1,000 apprentices will be on hand to demonstrate their talents to the public, answer questions and let people try out certain skills.
At the heart of the five-day event are the 85 SwissSkills Championships, in which young people compete for the title of Swiss champion in their chosen profession. Winners can later go on to the next level competitions: EuroSkills and WorldSkills.
>> Video: impressions of SwissSkills
“This third edition of SwissSkills is quite unique worldwide: nowhere else can so many different professions be experienced and tried out at the same location, not even at WorldSkills, which has around 60 professions, versus the 150 at SwissSkills,” Roland Hirsbrunner, head of communications at SwissSkills, told SWI swissinfo.ch via email.
The idea is to bring the diversity, excellence and career opportunities of Swiss vocational education and training to life, Hirsbrunner explained.
Switzerland’s apprenticeship system is often held up as the “gold standard” in vocational training internationally. It combines learning on the job, and being paid a learning wage, with one to two days of theory at a vocational school. Around two thirds of 15-16 year olds opt for an apprenticeship after leaving compulsory school. The alternative is an academic senior high school, which prepares for university.
Pupils generally start thinking about their career choices at age 14 onwards. SwissSkills is therefore expecting around 64,000 pupils to visit, from around 120,000 total visitors.
As we have recently reported, vocational training remains strong in Switzerland despite fears over the impact of Covid-19 on the quality of training and allocation of apprenticeship places.
But pressure remains in some families, particularly among expats and certain professionals (lawyers, doctors), for children to attend senior high school for prestige reasons.
Official figures and media reports suggest that this route is becoming more popular. For example, the number of students at higher education institutions has more than doubled since 2000, according to the Federal Statistical Office.External link
Europe and the world
“The best proof of the quality [of the Swiss apprenticeship system] is the success of our national teams at WorldSkills and EuroSkills. We may be a small country, but we are among the world’s best,” said Hirsbrunner.
In the last WorldSkills international competition, held in 2019 in Kazan, Russia, the Swiss team won 16 medals, coming in third after China and Korea.
The next WorldSkills competition was scheduled for Shanghai, China, this year (the normal two-year rhythm having been disrupted by Covid) but this was cancelled in May due to the pandemic.
WorldSkills and SwissSkills together
Instead, WorldSkills will be hosted across 15 countries and regions over the next few months. Switzerland is organising 13 of the 62 competitions, the most of any country, in addition to fielding its own team. The first WorldSkills competition that Switzerland is hosting (and the kick-off event for WorldSkills) will take actually take place during the SwissSkills event in Bern.
For many, the competitions, whether national or international, have served as a good career platform.
“SwissSkills [competitions] are a professional challenge that help you enormously at a young age, both professionally and personally,” said SwissSkills ambassador Martin Amstutz, who won the chef category in 2018. He now has his own gastronomy start-upExternal link in central Switzerland. “Competing with like-minded people while pursuing a professional passion was a great motivation for me to take part.”
Edited by Virginie Mangin
WorldSkills and SwissSkills competitions: eligibility
Switzerland is fielding a team of 37 to WorldSkills Special Edition 2022, which runs from September to November. The team is made up of past SwissSkills national competition winners and people who have been through other qualifying events.
The winners of this year’s SwissSkills national competitions are eligible for EuroSkills 2023 in Gdansk and WorldSkills 2024 in Lyon.End of insertion
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