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Apprenticeship shortfall causes disquiet

Hair-raising: the apprenticeship situation this year is said to be "tense"

(Keystone Archive)

The shortage of apprenticeship places for young people has created a "tense situation", according to the Swiss authorities.

But unions and teachers claim that the government has seriously underestimated the current crisis and are demanding urgent action to convince companies to take on school-leavers.

The Federal Office for Professional Education and Technology said on Friday that to gain a better overview the authorities would be examining measures taken by the cantons to increase the number of apprenticeship places.

According to April figures, the situation in Switzerland is critical, with over 5,000 young people leaving school this summer unlikely to find a position.

The total of places on offer has increased by 1,000 to 73,500, but the number of young people looking for an apprenticeship has also increased from 77,000 to 79,000.

Youngsters with problems at home or in the classroom are the ones most likely to experience difficulties. Furthermore, available places are not shared equally across different employment sectors: the retail, health and technical sectors are failing to keep up with demand.

Cantons are currently focusing their efforts on businesses, creating networks among the companies that provide apprenticeships and offering youngsters individual help.

Critical

Unions and teachers have accused the government of inactivity and of seriously underestimating the problem, and have demanded that the authorities take action.

Hugo Fasel, president of the trade union federation Travail.Suisse, on Wednesday attacked what he called a "waste of human resources".

"This year approximately ten to 15 per cent of the 87,000 young people leaving secondary school are expected to no longer pursue their education and 3,000 will get social aid," said Fasel.

There are now calls for the creation of 5,000 to 10,000 additional apprenticeship positions between now and 2009.

Travail.Suisse has also proposed that for each new youngster hired, a company could receive an annual incentive payment from the government worth at least SFr5,000 ($4,000).

Unemployment

These statements coincide with the publication of the June unemployment figures, which fell to the lowest level for almost four years - down 3.1 per cent from 3.3 per cent.

At the end of June there were 122,837 people registered unemployed – down by 6,649 according to the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs.

Youth unemployment statistics were particularly striking.

Swiss youngsters seem to react fastest to the improving economic situation - one-fifth of the overall reduction was registered among the 15-to-24-age group.

However, this will probably change soon though as the summer months and the end of the school year are traditionally the time when youth unemployment figures start to rise again.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

Vocational education and training enables young adults to make the transition into the working environment and ensures that there are enough qualified people in the future.

The aim of basic vocational training is to provide students with sufficient specialised or technical knowledge to practise a trade or profession. Training lasts between two and four years.

Upon completion, students are awarded a vocational certificate or a federal certificate of proficiency, and can immediately begin work in their trade.

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Key facts

Every year in Switzerland 70,000-80,000 young people who have finished their studies look for an apprenticeship.
In 2005 up to 4,000 could not find a suitable placement.
A series of regional meetings are planned on October 27 and 28 to discuss the apprenticeship situation, followed by the national apprenticeship conference in Geneva on November 13.

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