The Swiss vocational education and training (VET) model knows three training arrangements that collaborate closely according to the national VET legislation and the specific VET ordinances. Besides the apprenticeship training in the companies and the classroom instruction in the vocational schools, the third training arrangement are the branch courses.

The grades for the assessment of the apprentices’ learning success derive from all three learning venues. The main contract partner in the specific apprenticeship arrangement are the apprentice and the host company. This contract is necessary in order to be enrolled in a vocational school. A VET trainer and a VET teacher may exchange their views on an apprentice.

Branch courses (Überbetriebliche Kurse) are offered as a means to foster links between classroom and company-based learning activities. They complement classroom instruction at vocational schools and apprenticeship training at host companies by providing the apprentices with essential practical skills. Branch courses often take place at third-party training centres run by the industries involved. During the branch courses basic skills are shown to and conducted by the apprentices in order to complement apprenticeship training and classroom instruction. The branch courses are mandatory for the apprentices. A dispensation is possible if the host company can prove that the apprentice has received the specific training in the vocational school or during the apprenticeship training at the company. The duration of the courses varies from days to weeks, depending on the requirements of the VET ordinance. Branch courses are in principal conducted outside the mandatory vocational school lessons.

Branch courses are financed with course fees paid by the host companies, funding of the confederation and the cantons and, if available, contributions from the professional organisations. The cost is shared between the stakeholders of VET, apprentices do not bear any additional costs.