swissworld.org - Switzerland's official information portal

swissworld.org - Switzerland's official information portal

Your Gateway to Switzerland

Vocational training

Apprentice mechanics with the Swiss Federal Railways (in new window)

Apprentice mechanics with the Swiss Federal Railways© Alain D. Boillat SBB

Female apprentice (in new window)

Women are still under represented among IT apprentices© swissworld.org

More than two thirds of 16-21 year-olds opt for vocational training, which combines practice and theory.

The vast majority of such courses last 3 or 4 years, depending on the chosen field, and operate under the day release system. This means the trainee spends most of his or her time working for an approved company but attends a vocational school for 1 - 2 days per week. Students have a choice of about 300 recognised apprenticeship categories.

Popular with both men and women in 2005 were office work and the retail trade, but otherwise the courses chosen diverged according to sex. Far more men than women went in for technical training, to be electricians and mechanics, etc, while women tended to choose health-related jobs, such as nursing and caring, or personal services, like hairdressing.

Apprentices who pass the final exam at the end of their basic training are awarded a federal diploma which is recognised throughout the country.

When the law on vocational training came into force in 1934, only 11% of women followed a course that led to a recognised vocational certificate. In 2004 the proportion had risen to 52%. They account for over 40% of all apprentices. The proportion of men following such courses rose from 38% to 67% in the last 70 years.

Despite the fact that more women are taking apprenticeships, they tend to follow the shorter courses. Only just over 10% of those taking four-year training courses are women.

Since 1993 apprentices have been able to take an exam leading to a technical school leaving certificate (known in German as Berufsmaturität and in French as maturité professionnelle), which enables them to to on to study at a specialised University of Applied Sciences.