United States’ ‘second lady’ observes Swiss training system

Biden teaches at a community college outside Washington, D.C. Her husband is the United States Vice President White House

Jill Biden, wife of the Vice President of the United States, has visited Switzerland to learn more about the country’s apprenticeship system, which she called a ‘unique model’.

This content was published on September 16, 2014 and agencies

Biden, who works as an instructor at a community college outside Washington, D.C., visited the manufacturer Bühler AG to observe and speak with apprentices working there.

“I was impressed to learn that 80% [of apprentices] continue to work at Bühler after training, and other companies also benefit, creating an echo effect,” said the United States’ so-called “second lady”.

During a keynote address at the International Congress on Vocational and Professional Education and Training in Winterthur, Biden said youth in the US needed to have the opportunity to enter into the workforce during their education. She said the country currently lacks willingness from businesses to take on apprentices, which needs to be addressed through political incentives.

However, Biden emphasised that is not approaching the issue from a political standpoint.

“I’m not a politician,” she said. “Every day, I stand in a classroom and see how young people are struggling to get education for a well-paying job.”

After delivering opening remarks at the vocational education congress, Swiss Economics Minister Johann Schneider-Ammann expressed his pride in the Swiss dual education system, stating that youth unemployment is higher in many other countries because too much emphasis was placed on academics.

“Not only highly qualified people are needed,” he said.

However, Schneider-Ammann was not convinced a system of incentives or a requirement to take on apprentices was the right way to encourage businesses to participate in vocational education. He said he believes the Swiss system works as well as it does because businesses are free to decide whether to take on apprentices. 

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