Swiss-US Cooperation in VET

Left: U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker (front left) and Federal Councillor Johann N. Schneider-Ammann, (front right) during the signing ceremony in Washington, D.C. Source: U.S. Department of Commerce

Right: Signing ceremony in Bern with former U.S. Ambassador to Switzerland Suzi LeVine, U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez, Federal Councillor Johann N. Schneider-Ammann, and Swiss Ambassador to the US USA Martin Dahinden (from left to right). Source: Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research

Switzerland and the USA have maintained an intensive dialogue in the area of vocational education and training for several years. The signing of a Joint Declaration of Intent on Vocational Education and Training in the summer of 2015 set the stage for cooperation for the first time. In December 2018, bilateral cooperation was formally extended with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding. This agreement continues to form the basis for the pragmatic sharing of knowledge and experience on Switzerland's model of vocational education and training. Since then, US states and Swiss companies have launched several VET projects.

On 3 December 2018, Federal Councillor Johann N. Schneider-Ammann together with US secretaries of commerce, education and labor signed a Memorandum of Understanding Concerning Cooperation on Advancing Apprenticeship, Career and Technical Education, and Vocational and Professional Education and Training.

This MoU extends the formal cooperation institutionalised for the first time under the Joint Declaration of Intent signed back in 2015. Switzerland and the USA seek to facilitate official dialogue and the sharing of information, experiences and best practices. In addition, the two countries intend to encourage direct contacts, partnerships and cooperation between companies, project promoters and other VET stakeholders. Bilateral fact-finding visits and meetings with experts may also be organised as needed.

The MoU is expected to lead to more intensive sharing of knowledge and information between Switzerland and the US in the area of vocational education and training (VET). Each year, several US delegations visit Switzerland to gain first-hand insight into the Swiss VPET system. These delegations include technical experts as well as high-ranking representatives from interested US states.

The Swiss VPET system has attracted a great deal of interest from some US states. As a follow-up to official visits to Switzerland, individual states have launched pilot projects with Swiss partners or even begun reforming their education system to align it more explicitly with the Swiss model. As a case in point, the state of Colorado launched the 'CareerWise Colorado' system to provide young people with skills training. This new system is modelled after the Swiss system. SERI also organised a virtual meeting with representatives of the US departments of labour, education and commerce on the topic of VET in December 2020. This enabled direct discussion between experts on topics such as how to deal with Covid-19 in vocational education and training.

Swiss companies have also established labour programmes in their US locations, paving the way for the development and implementation of training programmes based on the Swiss model. In September 2020, Zurich Insurance won one of nine Pledge to America's Workers Presidential Awards. These Presidential Awards recognise organisations that demonstrate excellence in workforce education and training. In the fall of 2020, Zurich Insurance expanded its programme from Chicago to New York City. As a co-founder of the Chicago Apprenticeship Network and Insurance Apprenticeship USA, it helps other companies explore the possibility of apprenticeships.

Memorandum of Understanding Concerning Cooperation on Advancing Apprenticeship, Career and Technical Education, and Vocational and Professional Education and Training