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Integration success ‘Pre-apprenticeship’ training for refugees gets thumbs up

Henok, a recognised refugee from Eritrea, works at the Haerkingen parcel centre

Henok, a refugee from Eritrea, works at the Haerkingen parcel centre as part of his apprenticeship training to become a logistics specialist for Swiss Post

(© Keystone / Gaetan Bally)

Two-thirds of refugees and asylum seekers who took part in a government-run integration training scheme have managed to secure an apprenticeship, it was reported on Tuesday. 

Eighteen out of 26 Swiss cantons took part in the one-year “pre-apprenticeship” scheme, launched in August 2018, offering training to 750 selected refugees and asylum seekers. The aim was to help integration and prepare those with labour market potential for a full apprenticeship.

Out of the 750 who began the pilot scheme, 610 completed the first year of pre-apprenticeship training. Of these, three-quarters found a professional apprenticeship linked to a federal qualification. Approximately 5% of participants found a job. 

The State Secretariat for Migration (SEM),external link which co-funded the pilot scheme, said the results were “promising”.

“Participants, professional schools and firms are on the whole satisfied with the programme,” the SEM said in a statement. “They confirm the usefulness and orientation of the programme for the preparation of an initial professional qualification.” 

Around 19% of initial participants dropped out of the programme. This figure is similar to those who typically do not complete Swiss professional training courses, SEM said. 

Under the scheme, participants worked three days per week in a company and acquired the practical, academic and language skills necessary for an apprenticeship. 


In May, the Federal Council (executive body) decided to extend the pilot scheme for two years and to also expand the offer to non-asylum-seeking adolescents and young adults.

According to training specialists, improvements can nonetheless be made regarding the external supervision of apprentices and the exchange of experience. The scheme offers potential to boost language skills, SEM said.

The integration pilot scheme, presented in December 2015, is part of the government’s efforts to boost the potential of the national workforce. It also belongs to the national integration agenda – an accord between the federal and cantonal governments – detailing how authorities plan to speed up the integration of refugees into the labour market. The four-year initial programme costs CHF46.8 million (S46.8 million).


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