Vocational and professional education and training (VPET) in Switzerland is the joint responsibility of the Confederation, the cantons and professional organisations. This is called the public-private partnership of VPET. 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. The cantons are represented at the national level through the Swiss Conference of Cantonal Ministers of Education (EDK). The Confederation is represented by the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI).
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 VET and PE sectors, for example by defining the duration of the programmes and guaranteeing the national recognition of qualifications.
The cantons are generally responsible for education and training in Switzerland. The Swiss Conference of Cantonal Ministers of Education (EDK) consolidates and represents 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 for both dual-track (i.e. combined work and school) and school-based (i.e. full-time classroom instruction, no apprenticeship) 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: Trade associations / industry organisations, national umbrella organisations, VET and PE providers and companies. There are four national umbrella organisations: Two represent the social partners/trade unions (Travail.Suisse; Schweizerischer Gewerkschaftsbund) and two represent employers (Schweizerischer Arbeitgeberverband, Schweizerischer Gewerbeverband). For each branch there are one or more trade associations and industry organisations. Mostly, trade associations and industry organisations are responsible for the process of developing new training opportunities in their branch as well as starting revision processes in VET. Along with trade associa-tions and industry organisations, the national umbrella organisations and VET and PE providers are involved in decision-making processes on the further development of VET and PE. Companies provide, where possible, apprenticeships and traineeships, thereby paving the way for the next genera-tion of qualified workers. The involvement of companies in the Swiss VPET system is voluntary. Professional organisations define education and training content, establish national qualification procedures and are heavily involved in the development of syllabuses.
The public-private partnership (PPP) of VPET takes place at three levels: steering, learning environment and enforcement.
- At the steering level, the PPP is conducted based on the principles of consensus. The PPP oversees the 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 intercantonal courses for examiners, course offers for examination experts and the composition of extra-parliamentary commissions (including the commissions in the VET sector).
- 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 learning locations.
The PPP meets at several annual and periodical conferences and meetings like the ‘National High-Level Conference on Vocational and Professional Education and Training’ (Nationales Spitzentreffen der Berufsbildung), the ‘Associated Partner Conference’ (Verbundpartnertagung) and ‘Experience Exchange Conferences’ (ERFA-Tagungen).
Alongside the annual declarations from the National High-Level Conference on VPET, the PPP have adopted two mutual declarations, the ‘Magglinger Leitlinien’ and the ‘Swiss Charter for Quality development in VET’.
The ‘Magglinger Leitlinien’ are guidelines introduced in 2007 to enhance PPP in VET, and to ensure that cooperation is led by common and known targets. The signatories of the ‘Magglinger Leitlinien’ commit themselves to the consensus principle of the PPP. These guidelines advocate the consensus principle amongst all partners of the PPP. The consensus principle is also due to be used to strengthen the PPP in the transition phases between education levels and the level of interinstitutional cooperation.
The ‘Swiss Charter for Quality development in VET’ (2012) promotes the cooperation of the PPP and describes the common quality philosophy. The approach is based on self-responsibility, cooperation of all involved, freedom of method and information exchange. The charter covers all areas regulated in the Federal Act on Vocational and Professional Education and Training (VPETA) and addresses all stakeholders in VET. The charter formulates goals, but leaves the solution open. The framework for the development of the charter is the PPP-lead project ‘Quality living’ (Qualität leben) that began in 2011. The overall goal of the project is to promote a quality-driven approach in VET. It aims to high-light existing and new quality-specific activities. The persistent exchange between the PPP stakeholders ensures that there is a continuous assessment of the quality processes on national level.