Transition pathways between lower and upper-secondary level are especially intended for young people who encounter difficulties making the transition between school and work. They provide options for young lower-secondary level school leavers who are unable to enter the labour market without assistance. The reasons for low performance at lower-secondary level are broad, ranging from migration background to learning difficulties, undecidedness and disabilities. The general aim of transition pathways is to prepare young people for enrolment in vocational education and training (VET) programmes and ensure that they are integrated into the labour market.

Diversity in VET

Initiatives to encourage the integration of young people in VET programmes regardless of their nationality, origin and abilities are an integral part of Swiss VET. Young people with learning difficulties as well as physical or mental disabilities are integrated into VET with specifically targeted measures and programmes. The Federal Vocational and Professional Education and Training Act (VPETA) considers several options that can be used to help and integrate young people. The Confederation (acting through the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation SERI) for example supports specific projects to integrate young people from a migration background into VET programmes.

Integrative Certificates

The more practically-oriented two-year VET programmes have been designed for less academically gifted young people. They lead to a Federal VET Certificate, which is a federally recognised formal qualification. These VET programmes have their own specific occupational profiles focusing on obtaining practical skills. Graduates 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 (branch regulations).

Individual skills certificates are intended for young people who have been unable to complete a VET programme leading to a federally recognised qualification. These certificates provide written acknowledgement of the vocational and social skills that the young person has acquired. Those certificates are issued by the cantons and professional organisations.

Individual guidance

Individual tutoring is intended to support learners in 2-year VET programmes with learning difficulties. Host companies, vocational schools, third-party training centres and social workers all work together to ensure the learner’s progress. Apprentices in 3-year or 4-year VET programmes may also benefit.

In order to integrate disadvantaged young people with multiple problems into VET programmes, each canton is in charge of having a VET Case Management programme (Case Management Berufsbildung). VET Case Management helps to ensure that young adults (up to 25 years old) are given the opportunity to complete a VET programme. VET Case Management is based on the principle of empowerment and involves a coordinated approach to maximise the efficiency and effectiveness of measures taken. This programme 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. The cantons are responsible for the operational implementation of VET Case Management. The Confederation provides a funding contribution to the cantons to implement this national project, which was initially launched at the national Apprenticeship Conference in 2006. The Confederation also helps to sustain the national operational infrastructure (database, coordinative tasks).

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 exactly the same as what young learners acquire upon completion of training.

The topic of integrating adults into VET is being analysed in a targeted project lead by SERI. The project aims to address the lack of qualified workers as part of the corresponding national initiative. The project itself defines 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.