Initiatives to encourage the integration of young people in VET programmes regardless of their abilities, social background or nationality are an integral part of Swiss VET, since VET is a solid entry ticket into the labour market. Specific measures are in place for very gifted young people as well as for young people with learning difficulties as well as physical or mental disabilities.

Diversity in VET

The Confederation (acting through the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation SERI) supports specific projects to integrate young people into VET programmes. VPET is a valid option for a wide range of talents. 230 different VET-programmes assure for integration as well as excellent performance. Some of the VET-programmes are very demanding and hence attractive for gifted learners with talents on applied as well as academic level. Apprenticeships are attractive for gifted learners because of their clear profile and connectivity to educational pathways on tertiary level. They may opt for taking courses to achieve a Federal VET baccalaureate (FVB) already during the 3-year or 4-year VET programme, as this assures access to further studies at one of the Universities of Applied Sciences and to all institutions of higher education, if they pass a further University aptitude test after the FVB. Also  for young people who encounter difficulties making the transition between compulsory education and programmes on upper secondary level there are various measures in place to support them. . If young lower-secondary level school leavers are unable to enter a VET-programme for example they receive assistance. The reasons for low performance at lower-secondary level are broad. There might be learning difficulties, undecidedness and disabilities. The general aim of supporting measures is to prepare young people for the enrolment in vocational education and training (VET) programmes and hence to achieve their integration into the labour market. In certain cases, measures also focus on the (re-)integration of adults into the labour market with offers in the VPET-sector.

Strengthening the Federal VET Baccalaureate

The Federal VET baccalaureate is crucial for the permeability within the Swiss education system. It delivers general education to complement the contents of VET-programmes and allows for further studies on tertiary level (UAS). Apprentices may pass courses for achieving qualification level for the FVB during their apprenticeship (FVB type I) or after (FVB type II). For young apprentices both types of FVB’s are appealing but they and especially FVB type I are also very demanding as well as time-consuming and there are companies that favour apprentices being as present as possible at work during their apprenticeship. Therefore, more VET-diploma holders than apprentices opt for FVB-programmes. In addition the total percentage of FVB-examinations are still moderate on average and there are great differences between the cantons. These findings let the PPP launch an initiative in 2014 for strengthening the FVB with special focus on implementing more flexibility regarding the design of FVB type I programmes. In addition, they agreed on enhancing information and communication about the FVB. Both measures support the attractiveness of VET for gifted learners and hence foster excellence in VET. Public as well as private stakeholders contribute to the implementation of both measures. The involvement of companies is very important. Some confirm that on mid- and long-term level they or their branch profit even more from apprentices that opt for a FVB in parallel with their VET-programme, since these are usually not only determined learners but also resilient and high-performing workers. Such companies might better motivate their peers than the public authorities to support apprentices in opting for a FVB already during the apprenticeship.

Integrative Certificates

For young people facing learning difficulties in school, two-year VET programmes are in place that put emphasis on practical skills. These VET programmes have their own specific occupational profiles and lead to a Federal VET Certificate, which is a federally recognised formal qualification. These programmes are the first step into the labour market, allow for a modest living and enable for life-long learning because of the permeability of the Swiss education system. Certificate-Holders of the 2-year VET programme may enrol directly into the second year of a 3-year or 4-year VET programme leading to the Federal VET Diploma in the same branch.  From there they can still embark to further qualifications on tertiary level as a report shows, that has recently been published.

Young people who have been unable to complete a VET programme leading to a federally recognised qualification can still receive an individual skills certificate. These certificates provide written acknowledgement of the vocational and social skills that the young person has acquired. The cantons and professional organisations issue those certificates.

Individual guidance

In case learners in VET programmes show learning difficulties they receive additional individual tutoring. Host companies, vocational schools, third-party training centres and social workers all work together to ensure the learner’s progress.  However sometimes Disadvantaged young people with multiple problems need more support to enrol in a VET programme. Therefore, the confederation funded between 2008 and 2015 the development and implementation of VET Case Management programmes (Case Management Berufsbildung) on cantonal level. Since 2016, the cantons assure for these programmes on their behalf. Most of them have installed this offer. VET Case Management helps to ensure that young adults (up to 25 years old) are given the opportunity to complete a VET programme. These programmes follow the principle of empowerment and involve a coordinated approach to maximise the efficiency and effectiveness of measures taken. Case Management is a structured process to coordinate the activities of all persons and institutions involved (guidance counsellors, teaching supervisors, regional employment centres, migration offices, welfare offices and cantonal invalidity offices). With VET Case Management, only one agency or person is responsible for providing various inter-institutional services geared to the young persons’ individual needs.

Integrating adults in VET

Adults may acquire VET qualifications by various means for which the VPETA provides a wide framework. The pathways range from regulated, structured procedures for some occupational categories to individual recognition procedures in validation processes. There is no age limit to begin an apprenticeship. If the company and prospective apprentice are in agreement with each other, an adult may begin an apprenticeship. The formal qualifications that can be acquired by adult learners are the same as what young learners acquire upon completion of training.

Since 2013 the topic of integrating adults into VET has become a main focus of the partners of the public-private partnership.  From 2013-2017 the SERI led a project «VET-degree and change of occupation for adults» to address the lack of qualified workers as part of the corresponding national initiative. The project itself defined measures in order to find solutions for further qualification of adults, validation processes for adults and the process of catching up on specific skills as adults. Since the start of the project, the total number of VET-degrees achieved by persons above 25 has been increased.