University of Fribourg, Department of Education Science
Duration: 01.04.2013 - 31.01.2015
In Switzerland, an average of one in four apprenticeship contracts is terminated prematurely. In some occupations, the proportion is as high as 50%. Even when not all terminated apprenticeship contracts lead to a definitive dropout from the education system, there are significant personal, economic and social costs associated with this. Reducing the proportion of terminated apprenticeship contracts is becoming increasingly important from a social standpoint, in particular because demographic changes are expected to produce shortages of skilled labour and because there is a need to tap into Switzerland's domestic labour potential. Previous discussions have focused almost exclusively on the learners themselves, their personality traits and the reasons for having interrupted their training. In contrast, the STABIL study takes more of an institutional perspective.
Cross-sectional research was conducted with around 350 host companies from the German-speaking region of Switzerland that train learners in cooking or painting. Within the sampling, half of the companies reported early termination of apprenticeship contracts between August 2010 and March 2012 and the other half reported nothing at all. A standardised questionnaire was used to gather responses from the apprenticeship trainers and managers at the participating host companies as well as from the learners themselves.
With regards to how host companies dealt with cases of terminated apprenticeship contracts, only about one-third of the apprenticeship trainers expected these cases to occur. In two-thirds of the cases, termination of the apprenticeship contract was seen as somewhat of a surprise. In addition, nearly 40% of the vacancies resulting from a terminated apprenticeship contract remained unfilled by the time the survey was conducted. Given the rather low percentage of host companies that train apprentices in Switzerland, this is a rather "alarming" finding from a VET policy standpoint. Moreover, around one-third of apprenticeship trainers feel less inclined to train learners after an apprenticeship contract has been interrupted in this manner. Other reactions to terminated apprenticeship contracts within the host company are limited mainly to being more careful when selecting learners to fill apprenticeship positions. No consideration is given to other possible measures that could be taken within the company to prevent early termination of apprenticeship contracts in the future.
Among the factors within the host company, we find that all three of the groups surveyed (i.e. apprenticeship trainers, company managers and learners) considered the quality of apprenticeship training and the atmosphere to be good to very good in many companies. Learners voiced more critical views of the quality and atmosphere than apprenticeship trainers and company managers did. After clustering data, we found that a group of around 35% of the host companies offered very high quality apprenticeship training and a very small proportion (or none) of the apprenticeship contracts were terminated early. This group may be considered as a best practices group since the companies in this group all share a range of other characteristics that set them apart from the rest (e.g. motivation to train learners, willingness to continue upgrading skills through training, apprenticeship training provided in accordance with training plan established for VET programme). Taken together, these findings seem to indicate that a "culture of (apprenticeship) training" is often quite effective in preventing apprenticeship contracts from being terminated prematurely.