Economics of Education University of Zurich / Bern

Firm Behaviour and Training Policies

Managed by Professor Uschi Backes Gellner (University of Zurich) and Professor Stefan C. Wolter (University of Bern), the Leading House "Economics of Education, Firm Behaviour and Training Policies" focuses on policy-related research questions by considering the viewpoints of the various protagonists within the VET sector: individual learners, host companies and the State. The Leading House pursues three research themes:

Research theme I is devoted to questions relating to the impact of learning on the mobility of the individual learner as well as the impact of non-cognitive skills on individual decisions regarding education and training. Given rapid technological advances, the labour market, and more precisely, demand for qualified workers has increased significantly. These factors have changed the mobility patterns of learners. For this reason, the Leading House first seeks to determine whether changes over the past twenty years have affected the school-to-work transition for learners. The Leading House will then analyse how mobility patterns of learners evolve at various stages in their career. Within this context, the impact of specialisation on occupational mobility and potential income of employees will be considered. Finally, this research theme includes analysis of the impact that non-cognitive skills, temporal preferences and risk attitudes have on individual decisions to invest in human capital.

Research theme II is devoted to questions relating to the viewpoint of host companies. Attention is given to recruitment, training and areas where VET and higher education are complementary. Host companies can incur major costs when hiring qualified workers. Thus far, however, there is no direct empirical evidence concerning recruitment costs. The Leading House begins by examining these costs and various determining factors. Once this has been done, the impact of these costs on recruitment strategies and in-house training will be analysed. Past studies have highlighted the cost factor as a consideration in different training strategies. Research will also examine how training strategies and other human resources management policies are complementary and will analyse the complementary aspects of strategies adopted by companies. Finally, empirical studies will provide proof that a combination of two types of training (VET and higher education) seems to be an optimal strategy. While studies conducted thus far have focused on individual workers, the aim of this research theme is to analyse the composition of company employees and how these employees are trained.

Research theme III is devoted to the State as well as to education and training policy. In research and practice, concerns have often been raised that dual-track VET programmes may find it difficult to compete with full-time degree programmes at higher education institutions, since higher education qualifications enjoy greater social prestige. This is why the research theme includes analysis of political and social support for the VET sector and the willingness to provide public funding for it. Finally, a study will be conducted to analyse the reasons that motivate someone to teach at a VET school, the type of person and the conditions leading up to this decision.