The Swiss VPET system trains highly skilled workers. However, there is little awareness outside of Switzerland of the value of Swiss upper-secondary level vocational qualifications and tertiary-level professional qualifications. The National Qualifications Framework for Vocational and Professional Qualifications (NQF VPQ) together with certificate supplements and diploma supplements should help to rectify this situation.
The NQF VPQ is intended to make it easier for people to understand how the Swiss education system works and to be able to compare Swiss qualifications with other qualifications elsewhere in Europe. With this aim in mind, all formal vocational and professional qualifications have been assigned to one of eight reference levels within the NQF VPQ. By mapping these reference levels to those found in the EU’s European Qualifications Framework for lifelong learning (EQF-LLL), it is possible to compare Swiss qualifications with those of other countries.
Vocational and professional qualifications
The following types of qualifications are referenced to the NQF VPQ:
- Vocational qualifications: these are upper-secondary level qualifications awarded upon successful completion of 2 or 3-4 years of training
- Professional qualifications: these are tertiary-level professional qualifications awarded either by taking a federal professional examination or by attending a study programme at a professional education institution. There are also specific qualifications awarded by the Swiss Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (SFIVET) to vocational school teachers, workplace trainers, branch course instructors and examiners working within the Swiss VET sector as well as to teachers and examiners working within the Swiss professional education sector.
The NQF VPQ is an instrument designed to create transparency. Each vocational and professional qualification undergoes a referencing process, whereby the professional competences for the given qualification are compared with the descriptors of each the eight reference levels of the NQF VPQ. In each case, the sponsoring professional organisation submits the proposed reference level for the given qualification to the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI). Once a qualification has been referenced, it is included in the List of Referenced Vocational and Professional Qualifications, which shows the assigned reference level.
The reference level assigned in the NQF VPQ has no influence over whether the qualification or title will be recognised as equivalent to comparable qualifications in other countries or over decisions to admit the qualification holder to other education and training pathways.
Certificate supplements and diploma supplements
Once a vocational or professional qualification has been referenced to the NQF VPQ, all subsequent qualification holders will receive both their vocational qualification and a certificate supplement or a professional qualification and a diploma supplement. These explanatory documents contain information about the corresponding qualification, enabling potential employers both in Switzerland and abroad to better assess the professional competences of qualification holders.
The NQF VPQ, diploma supplements and certificate supplements are intended to achieve the following:
- Make Swiss upper-secondary level vocational qualifications and tertiary-level professional qualifications clearer, easier to understand and comparable at both national and international levels;
- Raise awareness of the considerable value of the Swiss VPET system;
- Strengthen international recognition of the Swiss professional education sector;
- Improve the level of social recognition and esteem given to holders of vocational and professional qualifications compared to holders of general education and higher education qualifications;
- Encourage the mobility of skilled workers and managers who obtain their training in Switzerland, by improving their job prospects outside of Switzerland as well as with foreign companies with subsidiaries or branch offices in Switzerland.
The Ordinance of 27 August 2014 on the National Qualifications Framework for Vocational and Professional Qualifications (SR 412.105.1) forms the legal basis for the NQF VPQ. The annex of this ordinance contains a description of the eight reference levels contained in the NQF VPQ.
Swiss higher education qualifications are not referenced to the NQF VPQ. A separate NQF is used for this purpose: the Qualifications Framework for the Swiss Higher Education Area (nqf-ch.HS).