Public Attitudes towards the Role of the State and the Private Provision of Training: Evidence from the Swiss Apprenticeship System

Eidgenössisches Hochschulinstitut für Berufsbildung EHB – Institut fédéral des hautes études en formation professionnelle IFFP

Lead researcher: Dr. Andreas Kuhn, Prof. Dr. Jürg Schweri

Duration: 01.09.2016 – 28.02.2018

Previous research has shown that a large fraction of Swiss training firms appears to be willing to incur considerable net training costs (while also showing that apprenticeship training is profitable in the short-run already on average). One potential explanation for such behavior is that firms act in accordance with the norms and expectations they are faced with in the local labor market they are operating in. The research project tackles the questions whether the norm towards the private (rather than the public) provision of public goods influences the probability that a firm is willing to offer apprenticeship positions.

For the empirical analysis the project will rely on data from three cross-sectional studies on the short-run costs and monetarized benefits of apprenticeship training to the firm actually providing the training (“Kosten-Nutzen-Studien''). To measure the local norm that vocational education and training should be provided privately, the researchers will make use of community-level voting results from two votes that asked for more public involvement in the provision of vocational education. Both votes were held at the national level and provide disaggregated, community level variation in the strength of public attitudes towards the private provision of public goods. Data from additional sources (such as the Swiss Census) and fixed-effects methods to control for alternative explanatory mechanisms, both observed and unobserved, and instrumental variable methods to deal with the imminent issue of reverse causality will be used. The researcher hypothesize that training incidence and intensity among private firms is, ceteris-paribus, higher in regions with a stronger norm for the private provision of training and that there is a higher likelihood of observing apprenticeship positions with net costs during the training period in regions where there is a strong norm towards private provision of apprenticeship training. The researcher also hypothesize that the impact of social norms depends on features of the firm (e.g. firm size) and/or the localities (e.g. size of the locality); allowing them to test additional hypotheses and to thus check the plausibility of the main estimates.

To the best of the researchers’ knowledge, this is the first empirical study on the importance of social norms on firms' training behavior. Their results will complement the existing evidence from VET research on the determinants of firms' training behavior. They particularly address the transferability of (parts of) the Swiss VET system into other countries, because they elucidate the role of social or cultural norms for firms’ provision of apprenticeship places.