02 SES 08 B, Looking Back in VET History to Shape the Future
By definition, vocational educational and training (VET) systems are caught between the labour market's demand for qualifications and the social imperative to provide vocational and career-related learning opportunities (Georg & Sattel 2006). In Switzerland, a balance between the qualifications on offer and those in demand is – and historically was – sought through the formalisation of vocational training programmes (Maurer & Pieneck 2013) and through institutional work on the respective occupational profiles by trade associations (Strebel et al. 2019), based on corporatist governance structures (Berner 2013) and a long-standing practice of promoting training through state subsidies (Kübler 1986). Similar to other German-speaking countries, the concept of the occupation (“Beruf”) has played a formative role for the institutionalisation of the Swiss VET system (e.g. Kraus 2009).
With the first Vocational and Professional Education and Training Act (VPETA) of 1930, a highly differentiated range of 2–4-year training programmes has emerged, covering all employment areas in the industry, handicrafts, commerce and services sector. These so-called apprenticeships or training occupations bundled the potential labour resources into activity profiles and defined the content, objectives, and training conditions at the federal level. The Federal Office for Industry, Trade and Labour, which also has been established in 1930, was responsible for their regulation. By deciding which occupations should be covered by the law and by defining the occupational titles, it helped to shape an understanding of what, at the time, an apprenticeship was and was not (Angehrn 2019). Furthermore, the law demanded the involvement of trade associations and their consultation in questions of defining the content of training the training conditions. In the first 10 years after the law came into force, almost 90 regulations were issued in this way, regulating training in over 120 occupations.
The coordinated efforts of the Federal Office and the trade associations to create an adequate training offer are reflected in the official statistics on apprenticeship contracts, which the Federal Office has collected annually since the mid-1930s. It registered data on all apprenticeship contracts, including the number of newly signed contracts, the prospective year of apprenticeship completion, the number of apprenticeship-leavers and the total number of contracts – broken down by training sector, canton, gender and type of training. These data are currently being collected and processed as part of a research project and are now available for the first time in complete form from 1936 to 1969 (cf. details in the methods section).
This paper provides an initial descriptive analysis of this data set and addresses the question of how the Swiss vocational training landscape has evolved in the early years until after the first reform of the VPETA in 1963. An analysis of the quantitative and qualitative development of apprenticeships can shed light on the emergence of a structural feature that still very much characterises today's VET system. The following questions are guiding:
- What was the vocational training landscape like in the corresponding time period?
- What can we say about regional and sectoral developments in training provision?
- And what effects did the regulation of individual training programmes have on the supply of apprenticeships compared to the system-wide reform of 1963?
While the early institutionalisation and later differentiation of Swiss VET has been well researched, the years between the first and second VPETA have received little attention to date. Studies that aim to quantify the phenomenon of system differentiation in VET using historical statistical data are just as rare. Yet this approach can offer new perspectives on developments in the education system (e.g. Flury et al. 2018; Ruoss & Heinzer 2020), which this paper aims to contribute to.
This paper is embedded in a research infrastructure project on the historical development of the education system in Switzerland, in which structural and statistical long-term data on all levels of the education system (i.e. pre-school, compulsory school, secondary and tertiary education) are inventoried, documented and made publicly accessible. The current focus is on VET, whereby in addition to the data focused in this paper, data sets on the training in the non-medical health professions, agriculture and in the non-academic tertiary education are being collected, spanning a period from mid/end-19th century to late 20th century. The data are extracted and commented on from serial sources, including cantonal administrative reports, annual reports of educational institutions, federal authorities, and trade associations. The statistical data on apprenticeships used for this paper have been collected annually since 1935 and were published in aggregated form in annual statistical reports. These have been accessible for some time, but they are partly incomplete and do not allow for differentiation according to regional, sectoral or educational organisational characteristics of the individual training occupations. In a current project, the original statistical data collection sheets accessible in the Swiss Federal Archives are being digitized and annotated. They are now available in raw form for the period 1936–1969 (the data for 1935 proved to be inconsistent). The newly generated data set enables analyses at the level of the individual occupation. Thus, for the first time, it is also possible to formulate questions about typical regional and sectoral development patterns and to examine specific structural features such as the development of gender relations within VET or the ratio between dual and full-time school-based provision of apprenticeship. In the medium term, the time frame is to be supplemented in both directions with data on industrial and commercial apprenticeship-leave examinations from 1877 to 1933 and on apprenticeship contracts (including examinations) from 1970 until present. For this paper, the statistical data is enriched with data on the organisation of training and training regulation (e.g. initial regulation, duration of apprenticeship, predecessor and successor occupations). This linking of empirical and structural data makes it possible, for example, to study the training offer in various sectors, the relationship between regulation and the supply of apprenticeship, the impact of targeted efforts to reduce tensions in the labour market, as well as the extent to which the evolving system of apprenticeships led to a unified VET system.
Initial analyses show that after the first VPETA of 1930, the vocational training landscape in Switzerland developed in a largely differentiated manner according to the needs in the respective economic sectors. Initially, a phase of intensive expansion and the establishment of a wide range of apprenticeships can be observed, which was embedded in regional economic structures as well as including micro-trades. The Federal Office was involved to a large extent in defining this range of apprenticeships. But in addition to the federally regulated ones, there were also many apprenticeship contracts in occupations that were not recognised or only provisionally recognised, which were approved at the cantonal level or introduced on a trial basis. Federal regulation often only took place after a new apprenticeship had already proven itself quantitatively or, in the case of highly specialised micro-occupations, if a corresponding social need for regulation of the apprenticeship could be asserted. Preliminary analyses indicate further a shift from a training policy geared towards individual occupations to a more comprehensive, system-wide training policy, sometimes around the first revision of the VPETA in the 1960s. In what could be called a second phase, a resulting consolidation from a “system of individual training occupations” to a “vocational education and training system” would not, however, lead to a decline in the importance of the individual occupation as a point of reference for collective training efforts. Rather, its position within a vertically and horizontally differentiating legal framework (Gonon 2012) and increasing coherence in VET seemed to be strengthened. Thus, we argue that the early VET landscape, which emerged against the backdrop of a close and enduring intertwining of economic and educational needs, anticipated the development towards a highly differentiated upper secondary level of vocational education, which has remained characteristic of the Swiss VET system to this day.
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