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New programmes More Swiss companies bring apprenticeships to US

A retail trade apprentice handles parcels at the Swiss Post in Spalen, Switzerland

(Keystone)

The number of companies planning to export the Swiss apprenticeship model to the United States has risen sharply, US officials say.

Another 12 Swiss businesses signed on with plans to expand or create new apprenticeship programmes on American soil, which brings the total of “committed companies” to 30, the outgoing US Ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein, Suzi LeVine, announced on Monday.

“This expansion of opportunities is proof of the strength and depth of US-Swiss economic ties,” LeVine said in a statementexternal link that coincided with the start of the World Economic Forum in Davos and a state visit to Switzerland by Chinese President Xi Jinping.

“Companies in Switzerland have perfected the apprenticeship model to the benefit of everyone – young jobseekers, educational institutions and the corporate bottom line,” said LeVine, who will step down on January 20 when US President-elect Donald Trump is sworn into office. “Now, drawing on the strong US-Swiss partnership, new paths to success will open up for more US communities.”

Gaining momentum

The Swiss apprenticeship system combines work experience with education and is increasingly viewed as a good solution for helping young people land jobs in the United States.

US officials say the 12 Swiss companies that have agreed to participate are: Adecco Group; Autoneum Holding; benpac systems; CSL Behring AG; Franke Group, Franke Management; Logitech International; Novartis International (Sandoz); PwC Switzerland; RUAG; Sicpa; Stadler Rail; and Supra Group.

The companies will offer training and jobs in the United States in a range of fields including IT systems management, accounting, office management, engineering and electronics.

For the academic portion of the apprenticeships, most of the companies will work with local community colleges, which in the United States are mainly two-year public institutions for higher education.

Swiss “exports”

The Swiss government published a strategy for education, research and training in 2010 that focused on trying to make a larger effort to export the Swiss apprenticeship model. The strategy said apprenticeships could be “better positioned at [the] international level as an export product”. Such a system otherwise only exists in Germany and Austria.

Swiss officials have been working to introduce the system to major economies and nations such as Brazil, China, India, South Africa and Vietnam, along with the United States.

In July 2015, the US and Swiss agencies that deal with education and commercial affairs, among other areas, signed an agreement to cooperate more closely on apprenticeships. They wanted to encourage more work-based training, curriculum development and recognition of credentials.

Along with the signing of that agreement, 18 Swiss companies announced that they would expand or unveil apprenticeships at their US facilities – which many of them have since done.

For example, Nestlé Group, through its US subsidiaries, now offers 26 programmes in 18 states across the country. SFS Group launched programmes in North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania, and has plans for a Swiss-US exchange. Mercuria Energy began a programme in Texas, while Zurich Insurance Group started one in Illinois, and Mikron Group in Colorado.

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