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back to index backGLOBALtalk November,  2015


Learning from Switzerland’s Apprenticeship Model

One of our biggest priorities at the Department of Labor is creating a skills superhighway that enables workers to get good jobs, and businesses to find good workers. A four-year degree is one pathway to the middle class, but it’s not the only pathway.

Apprenticeships provide another path to careers that can help Americans punch their ticket to the middle-class. Today’s apprenticeship graduate will earn some $300,000 more in wages and benefits over their lifetime than their peers who aren’t apprentices.

But despite what we know about the benefits, as a nation, we’ve drastically under-invested in apprenticeship. While some of our global neighbors have made apprenticeship programs an integral part of their economies, we’ve failed to capitalize on the value they can create.

President Obama has set a goal to double the number of apprenticeships in the United States by 2017. That is why I traveled to Switzerland this week to learn more about how they made apprenticeships the centerpiece of their education and training programs. Here’s some of my thoughts from the trip:

Day 1: Apprenticeships are the other college

I began my visit with a tour of Libs, a leading vocational education center that holds contracts with more than 85 companies to train about 1,200 apprentices for jobs in the manufacturing, mechanical, electronics, technology and IT industries.

U.S. Ambassador to Switzerland Suzi LeVine and I met with apprentices and parents who shared their support of the apprenticeship model.

During our tour we met Stacy Ciulik, an American living in Switzerland. Her son completed a four-year computer science apprenticeship with a Swiss company. He was able to grow and develop in ways that would not have been possible if he had attended a traditional high school in the United States,” she told me.

The Swiss apprenticeship model gives students the flexibility to start a job or pursue higher education upon the completion of their program. In the case of Stacy’s son, he pursued a bachelor’s degree in computer science and plans to continue on to his PhD.

Parents in Switzerland understand that apprenticeships offer the same prestige as a college education. We need to make sure parents in the U.S. know that apprenticeships are the other college,” except without the debt.

Day 2: With a little help from our friends

Our second day began with a visit to CSL-Behring, a leader in the plasma protein therapeutics industry. Students who study as apprentices at CLS-Behring receive cutting edge biotech training. Certainly not your grandfather’s apprenticeship!

To read entire article, please click here.

Source: U.S. Department of Labor Blog - GAI





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