There are many ways for employers and employees to mutually benefit from employee development. These can range from unpaid internships—where students spend a semester or a summer in the office of a business, to training programs—where existing employees are giving periodic training in specific topics—to something more in-depth: apprenticeship programs. As described by the Department of Labor, an apprenticeship is, “an arrangement that includes a paid-work component and an educational or instructional component, wherein an individual obtains workplace-relevant knowledge and skills.”
Swiss Particularly Adept
Apprenticeships are practiced around the world in various forms; some are more effective than others. In an article for Swiss Info, Ralph Atkins argues that the Swiss are particularly adept in this area, and they are developing a world-class workforce through effective internships.
As Atkins writes, “Switzerland’s long-established apprenticeship system, combining classroom and workplace learning, is widely seen as one of the affluent country’s greatest economic strengths, creating a pool of highly skilled workers for Swiss companies.”
So, why are the Swiss so good at doing apprenticeship programs? Atkins argues the concept of apprenticeships is ingrained in the Swiss national psyche. “The apprenticeship system is deeply entrenched in Swiss culture, making it difficult for rival economies to copy,” he writes. “Dating from medieval times, formal apprenticeship schemes remain entrenched across German-speaking Europe. Not coincidentally, Germany and Austria, as well as Switzerland, have among the continent’s lowest youth unemployment rates.”
From Cooking to Engineering
Atkins also notes that Switzerland’s private sector is heavily invested in its internship culture as well. “Swiss companies are closely involved in drawing up and selecting candidates for training programs for more than 200 professions, ranging from cooking and social care to multiple branches of engineering,” he writes. “Crucially, some 45 percent of funding for Swiss vocational training comes from the private sector—compared with an average of just 14 percent among members of the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.”
The apprenticeship model is one of many used to help new entrants into the workforce develop on-the-job skills and translate academic learning into real-world experience. Organizations looking to develop a successful apprenticeship program should take a look at the Swiss model for some inspiration.