On October 29, 2013, experts from the business sector and academia came to Zurich for the ZEIT CONFERENCE on Schools and Careers, where they underscored the importance of vocational education in Switzerland and Germany.
Dr. Johann Christian Jacobs, president of the Jacobs Foundation, noted the outstanding reputation of vocational training in Germany and Switzerland, which serves as a role model for other countries and is a significant factor in attracting businesses to both countries. According to Jacobs, the vocational training system “not only offers a wide variety of opportunities for career entry and advancement, it is also one of the reasons why our youth unemployment rates continue to be low and an important factor in maintaining economic prosperity and a competitive edge. Furthermore, vocational training is by no means a dead-end street for those wishing to continue their education; on the contrary, it provides access to higher education.”
At the conference, which was held at Jacobs Haus, Prof. Stefan C. Wolter, president of the OECD Group of National Experts on Vocational Education and Training, pointed out that vocational education continues to suffer from a negative image. It needs to appeal to talented individuals rather than being perceived as a last resort for those who have no other options. However, it is difficult for policymakers to change this situation. Wolter stressed the responsibility of the business community for vocational education: “Nowhere else are you in such close contact with technological innovation as you are in vocational training,” he said.
Wolfgang Grupp, owner and CEO of Trigema, emphasized the importance of vocational training for his company: “If I want to have good employees, I need to train them.” He provides training for many members of his workforce over a period of years – and this is crucial for the company’s success. Hans-Ulrich Bigler, director of the Swiss Trade Association, pointed out that the system in place today allows for considerable mobility. While vocational training prepares individuals to enter the workplace, it does not preclude studying at a university.
The conference, organized jointly by the Jacobs Foundation and DIE ZEIT, was held this year for the first time.