Deiss says apprenticeship situation is "stable"

The apprenticeship system has been under pressure Keystone

The Swiss economics minister, Joseph Deiss, has announced there is no shortage of apprenticeship places, despite the current difficult economic conditions.

This content was published on August 25, 2003 - 13:46

With the season for handing out traineeships underway, the economics ministry counted around 5,000 open positions across the country - mainly in rural areas.

On Monday Deiss announced that an extra SFr2.3 million ($1.6 million) would be pumped into a task force he had set up a few months ago to increase the number of apprenticeship places on offer to school-leavers.

Earlier this year education experts warned that school-leavers faced a 10,000 shortfall in apprenticeship places, prompting the government to set up a task force to look at the problem.

“The pervasive structural changes experienced by the economy, technology and evident in the demography, have had a large influence on training for trades and professions,” explained Deiss.

But the economics ministry said the latest figures indicated a positive turnaround for potential trainees.

Deiss reported that the number of new apprenticeships had risen, while the variety of careers available in certain trades and professions had expanded.

He said there was a noticeable increase in traineeships offered in the health and industrial sectors.

Deiss claimed the upturn in the fortunes of the traineeship system was due to the combined efforts of industry associations, companies, cantons and the federal government.

Changing trends

School-leavers have traditionally favoured some professions more than others, with jobs in information technology particularly sought after.

But the economics ministry said it had recorded a downturn in the number of career opportunities in the IT sector, as well as a reduction in jobs in commerce.

This was especially apparent in urban areas such as Zurich, Bern, Basel, Aargau, Lucerne and Solothurn.

“These are the spots where we have some tensions and where we have to give a little bit more work and imagination,” Deiss told swissinfo.

But he was quick to point out that media attention may have exaggerated the scale of the problem.

"I think that beyond that we are not in a situation that is very different to other years,” he added.

Not convinced

Mario Antonelli, head of the white collar office workers' union, was sceptical about the government's upbeat assessment.

He said there was a clear shortfall, leaving between 5,000 and 7,000 young people with no prospect of getting a traineeship.

"Next year it will probably be up to 10,000 if we do not increase the number of places for apprenticeships," Antonelli told swissinfo. "I had the impression today that the problem is not taken seriously enough."

"The 5,000 apprenticeship places he [Deiss] was mentioning are mostly in professions that are not the kind of professions young people are looking for – not just because they are not interested, but because they are probably not the competences they have been taught in schools."

Time bomb

Antonelli was not alone in his criticism. The Apprenticeship Initiative, a lobby group founded in May this year, demanded more action rather than "empty promises".

The campaign organisers said that youth unemployment had become "a time bomb" that was ready to go off in Switzerland.

The economics minister reiterated the government’s flexible approach: seeking to promote apprenticeships where they were needed, rather than trying to maintain the current industrial infrastructure.

The “Apprenticeships 2003” task force is anxious to direct trainees towards professions that are likely to be able to offer them employment afterwards.

The economics ministry also wants to improve the collation of statistics on school-leavers and apprenticeship schemes, in conjunction with the cantons.

Traineeship law

The Federal Office for Professional Education and Technology is backing the efforts of the task force.

Acting director Ursula Renold said an upcoming piece of legislation should make things easier.

The new law on training for the trades and professions is due to come into force in January 2004.

It will establish a commission to oversee the system of apprenticeships in Switzerland. This would take over the monitoring of trends and the issuing of recommendations from the task force.

According to Renold, her department aims to improve the procedure for selecting careers, by targeting certain youth groups and “working with the cantons on mentoring programmes”.

swissinfo with agencies

Key Facts

In the German-speaking part of Switzerland, most apprenticeships will be handed out till the end of August.
In the French-speaking part, trainees will be taken on until the middle of October.
School-leavers and applicants can seek guidance on the choice of career at cantonal government offices.

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