02 SES 03 A, Policy Interventions On VET And CVET - Measures And Impact
Parallel Paper Session
In the international literature on vocational education and training (VET) systems, many authors have argued that these systems are increasingly converging, particularly as a consequence of growing international cooperation in the field of skills development (Gonon, 2004). In this context, one important dimension of potential convergence is the domain of skills specifity, in which there are, until date, strong inter-country differences: in fact, school-based VET systems tend to focus on broad training programmes that prepare students for a number of occupations. Sweden, for instance, has no more than 13 VET programmes at the upper secondary level, whereas the more firm-based VET systems, such as those of Germany and Switzerland, have 344 and 230 respectively VET programmes at this level of the education system (Bundesamt für Berufsbildung und Technologie, 2011a; Bundesinstitut für Berufsbildung, 2011; Kuczera, et al., 2008). If now the convergence hypothesis was correct, we would see these numbers to strongly converge. This is, however, not the case.
In fact, in Switzerland that there have been, indeed, a number of attempts by the public administration to broaden VET programmes and thus to merge some of the narrower VET programmes to design broader ones (Wettstein, 2005). In general, it was hoped that, through such reforms, income prospects could be improved for all those who, after completing their VET programmes at the upper secondary level, enter the labour market in a different occupational field as in the one they were trained in. However, evidence shows that only a few such reforms have been successful, the most prominent of these being the merger of training programmes in the mechanical and electrical engineering industries (Eidgenössisches Volkswirtschaftsdepartement, 1997), a reform that was overhauled quite considerably only recently. The analysis suggests that such reforms are only possible in the context of strong economic downturns in the respective economic sectors. However, normally, employer associations in the respective economic sectors are strong enough to resist to pressure from the central government. In fact, for some for the comparatively broader commercial training programmes, there have been signs of employers succeeding in partly fragmentalising these broader training programmes (Bundesamt für Berufsbildung und Technologie, 2011b).
Taking the example of Switzerland, this paper aims at understanding why the broadening of VET programmes has not taken place to a considerable degree. We do this by employing a historical-institutionalist framework that emphasises the importance of path dependence and positive feedbacks (Mahoney & Thelen, 2010; Pierson & Skocpol, 2002; Thelen, 1999), an approach that has increasingly gained importance in the international literature on skills development (Busemeyer & Trampusch, 2011; Thelen, 2004).
Bundesamt für Berufsbildung und Technologie. (2011a). Fakten und Zahlen: Berufsbildung in der Schweiz - 2011. Bern: Bundesamt für Berufsbildung und Technologie. Bundesamt für Berufsbildung und Technologie. (2011b). Verordnung des BBT über die berufliche Grundbildung Kauffrau/Kaufmann mit eidgenössischem Fähigkeitszeugnis (EFZ). Bern: Bundesamt für Berufsbildung und Technologie. Bundesinstitut für Berufsbildung. (2011). Liste der staatlich anerkannten Ausbildungsberufe, Stand 01.08.2011. Retrieved on 21st October 2011 from from http://www2.bibb.de/tools/aab/aabberufeliste.php. Busemeyer, M. R., & Trampusch, C. (2011). Introduction: The comparative political economy of collective skill formation. In M. R. Busemeyer & C. Trampusch (Eds.), The Comparative Political Economy of Collective Skill Formation (pp. 3-40). Oxford: Oxford University Press. Eidgenössisches Volkswirtschaftsdepartement. (1997). Polymechaniker/Polymechanikerin: Reglement über die Ausbildung und die Lehrabschlussprüfung. Bern: Eidgenössisches Volkswirtschaftsdepartement. Gonon, P. (2004). Convergence of Discourses - Convergence of Structures? The Reform of Vocational Education in England and Switzerland in the Light of the European Integration. In P. Gonon & A. Heikkinen (Eds.), Social Competences in Vocational and Continuing Education (pp. 199-214). Bern/Berlin: Peter Lang. Kuczera, M., Field, S., Hoffman, N., & Wolter, S. C. (2008). Learning for Jobs: OECD Reviews of Vocational Education and Training - Sweden. Paris: OECD Publishing. Mahoney, J., & Thelen, K. A. (2010). Explaining institutional change : ambiguity, agency, and power. Cambridge ; New York: Cambridge University Press. Pierson, P., & Skocpol, T. (2002). Historical Institutionalism in Contemporary Political Science. In I. Katznelson & H. V. Milner (Eds.), Political science: the state of the discipline (pp. 693-721). New York: W.W. Norton. Thelen, K. (1999). Historical Institutionalism in Comparative Politics. Annual Review of Political Science, 2(1), 369-404. Thelen, K. (2004). How institutions evolve : the political economy of skills in Germany, Britain, the United States, and Japan. Cambridge ; New York: Cambridge University Press. Wettstein, E. (2005). Modularisierung im Berufsbildungssystem der Schweiz. Revue suisse des sciences de l’éducation, 27(2), 1-21.
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