VET qualifications are developed within the frame of the public-private partnership of VET: Professional organisations define the contents and the public partners (confederation and cantons) assure for the relevant framework conditions. For each VET programme the SERI issues a VET ordinance, hence VET-certificates and -diplomas are federally recognised. VET curricula are elaborated by a committee and form the foundation for the VET teaching concept, the structure of the vocational training and the assessment of the competences of the apprentice at all three learning places.

The legal basis for each VET programme in Switzerland can be found in national VET ordinances (Bildungsverordnungen) issued by the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI). These are prepared through the joint efforts of the Confederation, the cantons and the corresponding professional organisations. VET ordinances cover the legally relevant aspects applying to a given occupation: The subject matter and duration of the corresponding VET programme; the objectives and requirements; health and safety regulations, environmental protection; the scope of course content and the distribution of VET content across learning environments; the VET curriculum; the minimum standards for the VET professionals; the maximum number of apprentices per company; the learning documentation; the learning report and performance documentation; the qualification procedure; the qualifications and titles; the quality development and organisation and the final provisions. VET programmes lead to federally recognised formal qualifications.

VET curricula (Bildungspläne) form the basis for the vocational teaching concept used for VET programmes. They are used to structure vocational education and training courses and guide vocational teachers and trainers in their work. They define the occupational pedagogical basis, the qualification profile, the professional competences (occupational, methodological, social skills), the approval and entry into force.

For each VET ordinance there is an obligation to nominate a committee for occupation development and quality (CODQ), which is either exclusively created for the given occupation or a standing group in the occupational field. Each CODQ is comprised of members representing the three main VET partners (Confederation, cantons and professional organisations). Their role is to adapt VET curricula for specific VET programmes to the current needs of the labour market. If necessary, the professional organisation submit a request to SERI to have changes made to the VET ordinance.

Pedagogical methods

Swiss VET qualifications are characterised by a strong learning outcomes approach and a competence-oriented structure of training content.

In Switzerland, two vocational models are commonly used to structure the documents that describe the VET programmes and qualifications in a competence-oriented manner: The competence-oriented model and the competences-and-resources model. These two models determine how professional competences are described and structured in the VET curriculum that are used by vocational school teachers and apprenticeship trainers.

With the competence-oriented model, the competences that students need to acquire are depicted in the VET curriculum in the form of competence areas, competences and performance objectives. Competences include technical competence, methodological competence, personal autonomy and social skills.

With the competences–and-resources model, the VET curriculum describes the specific competences that learners need to acquire. These are depicted in the form of areas of competence, competences and the resources needed in order to successfully cope with situations (knowledge, skills/proficiencies and attitudes). Each area of competence includes a certain number of competences corresponding to typical workplace situations. The model describes the behaviour expected of qualified professionals in such situations. Each competence incorporates the resources needed to successfully handle the situation.

In-company training plan and school curriculum design

The tasks of the apprenticeship trainers at host companies include training apprentices according to the goals set forth in the VET ordinance, the VET curriculum and the company-specific apprenticeship training plan. This planning serves to describe the tasks to be undertaken over the specified duration in the specified units or divisions of the host company. These measures ensure that the apprentice is being trained in the defined activities during the apprenticeship. They also ensure he/she acquires the necessary practical experience and skills attainment. The company-specific apprenticeship training plan helps to keep the overview of the entire vocational year and to plan ahead for tasks to be performed by apprentices. Every semester the apprenticeship trainer agrees with the apprentice on the individual learning objectives (Lernziele), which are documented in an education report (Bildungsbericht). Each apprentice has his/her own training logbook (Lerndokumentation).

Vocational schools are responsible for teaching vocational subjects as well as language, communication and society (LCS) subjects to learners, and they employ vocational school teachers. The school curriculum designs are defined according to the VET ordinance, the VET curriculum for the specific occupation and the framework syllabus for general education.