Swiss mix work, learning

U.S. adults score well below the global competition in literacy, numeracy and problem solving using technology, according to the Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies.

While older Americans scored well, younger Americans lagged behind workers in other developed countries, reports the Wall Street Journal.

The U.S. should learn from Switzerland’s vocational education system, say Nancy Hoffman of Jobs for the Future and Bob Schwartz, a Harvard education professor.

Two-thirds of Swiss teens choose to “combine learning at the workplace and learning in a classroom,” says Schwartz. Switzerland has the “lowest youth unemployment rate in the developed world, yet it ranks very high in innovation and economic performance.

When you talk to Swiss leaders and ask how can this be, you have such a small fraction of your young people going through the university system, the Swiss will say, “No, no, it’s because we really invest in preparing folks who are at the front lines and we look to our kind of everyday workers to provide a lot of the innovation that really spurs the economy.”

Young Swiss apprentices are put to work immediately, says Hoffman.

. . .  in the banking industry, we saw 16-year-olds in suits and little round glasses all sitting next to their hedge fund managers and actually handling aspects of accounts.  You go to Swiss.com which is the biggest telephone Internet provider in Switzerland and there they have an extremely innovative program where students can choose to work on any project that any employer posts on a bulletin board.

By the third year, at age 17 or 18, apprentices earn about $1,000 a month, says Schwartz. Once they complete the program, they’ve earned a valuable qualification which puts them “on a ladder to a middle-class wage.” That idea is spreading to the U.S.

. . . Volkswagen, which operates a 3,000-person plant in Chattanooga proudly announced the completion of a first apprenticeship program in automotive mechatronics for 25 young people.  They do this in partnership with a regional community college there.  These people now have a qualification that is worldwide in value.

Vocational education isn’t stigmatized in Switzerland, Finland and other countries that have modernized their systems, Hoffman says.

 So while they teach construction and they teach carpentry and they teach the old trades, the system is really known as the place you go if you want any kind of high-tech skills.  If you want to be an engineer, if you want to work in IT, if you want to learn graphic design, if you want to be a nurse, if you want to be a childcare teacher, you go to the vocational system.

In Switzerland, vocational students can go on to the University of Applied Sciences.  At Credit Suisse, 40 percent of apprentices also were studying for a professional baccalaureate, says Schwartz. “There are no dead ends.”


POSTED BY Joanne Jacobs ON October 10, 2013

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Swiss mix work, learning — Joanne Jacobs

[…] Two-thirds of Swiss teens choose apprenticeships that combine workplace and classroom learning. “In the banking industry, we saw 16-year-olds in suits and little round glasses all sitting next to their hedge fund managers and actually handling aspects of accounts,” says Nancy Hoffman of Jobs for the Future. […]

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