Vocational and professional education and training (VPET) in Switzerland is the joint responsibility of the Confederation, the cantons and professional organisations as set forth in the Federal Act on Vocational and Professional Education and Training (VPETA). The VPETA describes their roles within various topics. This stakeholder cooperation is called the public-private partnership of VPET. Their decision-making activities are consensus driven. Where indicated, the partners agree on additional mutual declarations such as charters or mission statements for (re-)defining their mode of cooperation.
The public-private partnership is shared between the Confederation as well as the Cantons and the professional organisations. The Confederation is represented by the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI). The cantons are represented at the national level through the Swiss Conference of Cantonal Ministers of Education (EDK). Professional organisations is the umbrella term used for the non-governmental stakeholders in VPET. The professional organisations are responsible for the development of qualifications and they ensure the involvement of the economy.
Representing the Confederation, the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI) within the Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research (EAER) is the federal government's specialised agency for national and international matters concerning education, research and innovation policy. SERI is responsible for regulating and co-funding the Vocational Education and Training (VET) and Professional Education (PE) sectors, for example by defining the duration of the programmes and guaranteeing the national recognition of qualifications. At the EAER there is also the Swiss Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (SFIVET), an administrative unit, responsible for basic and continuing trainers for teachers, trainers, instructors and examiners working in the VET- or PE-sector. SFIVET is also involved in research, studies, pilot projects and the provision of services.
The cantons are generally responsible for education and training in Switzerland. The Swiss Conference of Cantonal Ministers of Education (EDK) consolidates and reinforces the inter-cantonal cooperation at national level. There are 26 cantonal VET offices responsible for implementing VET at cantonal level. VET offices coordinate their activities through the Swiss Conference of VET Offices (SBBK), a specialised conference of the Swiss Conference of Cantonal Ministers of Education (EDK). The cantons are responsible for vocational, educational and career guidance service and provide information and advice to both young people and adults. They also run vocational schools, which offer classroom instruction during VET programmes. In addition, vocational schools prepare learners for the Federal Vocational Baccalaureate Examination.
‘‘Professional organisations’’ is an umbrella term that is used for the non-governmental stakeholders in VPET. They refer to trade associations or industry organisations. In addition, they refer to national umbrella organisations, that represent the social partners/trade unions (Travail.Suisse; Schweizerischer Gewerkschaftsverbund) and or the employers (Schweizerischer Arbeitgeberverband, Schweizerischer Gewerbeverband). Finally yet importantly, private VET and PE providers or companies, usually as a member of their relevant branch association, belong to the professional organisations. At least one or more trade associations or industry organisations represent a branch. Mostly, they are responsible for the process of developing new training opportunities in their branch (f. ex. defining education and training contents, developing new professions, curricula or particular branch courses) as well as starting revision processes in VET. In short, professional organisations are involved in decision-making processes focussing on the needs of the economy (employers and employees). Hence, companies offer, where possible and voluntarily apprenticeships- and traineeship-positions, thereby paving the way for the next generation of qualified workers.
The public-private partnership (PPP) between the confederation, the cantons, and the professional organisations representing Swiss VPET takes place at three levels: steering, learning environment and enforcement.
- At the steering level, the PPP follows the principles of consensus. The commission of VPET and other topic-related extra-parliamentary commissions represent the PPP. It monitors the development and enactment of VET ordinances, the execution of provisions and the approval of pilot studies in VET. Also, the PPP is in charge of steering-level decisions concerning courses for examiners, course offers for examination experts and the composition of extra-parliamentary commissions.
- At the learning environment and enforcement level, including implementation, the PPP involves the validation of non-formal learning, the granting of accreditations for different VET programmes in vocational schools, conducting qualification procedures, the involvement of vocational schools in branch courses, equality for VET professionals, and cooperation between the three learning places (VET-schools, branch courses and companies).
The PPP meets at several annual and periodical conferences and meetings. These are the National High-Level Conference on Vocational and Professional Education and Training (Nationales Spitzentreffen der Berufsbildung), the Associated Partner Conference (Verbundpartnertagung), Autumn Conference (networking event for all VPET-Stakeholders during fall season, in German Herbsttagung) and last but not least Experience Exchange Conferences that focus on a particular topic or aspect of VPET (ERFA-Tagungen).
Mutual declarations Charta for VPET and Mission Statement VPET 2030
In addition to the VPETA and alongside the annual conferences such as the National High-Level Conference on VPET, the PPP, represented by the federal commission of VPET has adopted the Charta for VPET, a mutual declaration.
The Charta for VPET are guidelines introduced in 2017 as the second mutual declaration (the first was called Magglinger Leitlinien that was adopted in 2007). The PPP has agreed on the Charta for VPET since the Federal Act on Vocational and Professional Education and Training (VPETA) defines particular roles of the partners. However not how they should design particular interfaces and cooperation-processes in detail. Therefore, the Charta defines certain rules of the game ensuring that cooperation follows the principle of consensus as well as, common and known targets. The PPP chose the term Charta since it invites the partners to commit themselves to those principles, which should facilitate cooperation between them.
Recently the PPP has adopted another mutual declaration. It creates the frame for joint and target-oriented action by collective governance of the Confederation, the cantons and the private sector in the following years. It is based on some crucial key elements of VPET that shall stay in focus in the future. The kick-off for the initiative to draft a VPET 2030 mission statement took place at the National High-Level Conference on Vocational and Professional Education and Training in 2016. In the following, the partners elaborated the mission statement at various occasions such as the Associated Partner Conference (Verbundpartnertagung) in 2017 and others. The implementation process has started in 2018. The relevant steering committee VPET 2030 has mandated the elaboration of key elements of Swiss VEPT representing propositions for future reforms. In addition the SERI mandated the elaboration of various reports that reveal options for the further developing of the following aspects of VPET: career guidance counselling, financing, improved flexibility of VPET in the context of digitalisation, transversal competences, systemic control of VEPT in Switzerland and last but yet importantly, governance within the Swiss VEPT (systemic steering of the Swiss VEPT).
- Federal Vocational and Professional Education and Training Act (VPETA), 2002 (in English)
- Public-Private-Partnership of VPET (in German, French and Italian)
- Panorama (2017): Charta für die Berufsbildung. Dem Reifegrad der Verbundpartnerschaft angepasst (in German)
- VPET 2030 (in German, French and Italian)
- Mission Statement for Vocational and Professional Education and Training 2030 (in German, French and Italian)