Patchwork education could be the future

Many people's careers are becoming as mixed as a patchwork quilt maxcab/123RF

The classical working path is no more: people are frequently switching jobs and careers, adding in lots of extra training or even taking timeouts, experts say. What does this mean for the Swiss vocational education model?

This content was published on June 16, 2018 - 12:05

Patchwork education’ has become a buzzword, says the Swiss Association of Commercial Employees,External link which held its Assembly of Delegates in Zurich on Saturday on the topic.

It means a mix of several, shorter training programmes and work experience, as well as frequent changes of job and/or career choice, stays abroad and career time outs. In addition, some people are working for multiple employers at a time, are only hired on a project-basis or are self-employed, the association says.

“The working environment is changing rapidly due to developments such as digitalisation, globalisation or new forms of cooperation,” Michael Kraft, Commercial Apprenticeship Expert at association, told via email ahead of the meeting.

“Education must be close to the labour market and so the way in which we train and educate ourselves will change continuously.”

Swiss vocational professional education and training (VPET) is considered a model of success, also for other countries, as was recently seen at the 3rd International Congress on VPETExternal link in Winterthur.

“To ensure that this remains the case, we regard the modular structure of educational programmes, shorter learning cycles and shorter continuing education courses, for example, as meaningful models. It is important that training and education is flexible for individuals and compatible with their work and other life plans,” Kraft said.

VPET strategy

There is also the issue of how the Swiss VPET system as a whole should respond to these challenges. These discussions are now ongoing with the government’s Vocational and Professional Education Strategy 2030External link, he added.

This strategy was approved by the State Secretariat for Education, Research and InnovationExternal link (SERI) and its VPET partners at the end of January 2018External link. Its mission statement clearly says that vocational education in Switzerland “facilitates individual learning pathways and career development” and that it is “permeable both horizontally and vertically”, meaning that people should be able to move easily around the education system.

Economics Minister Johann Schneider-AmmannExternal link, whose remit includes education, was also speaking at the assembly about the strategy. “We must in future be open for unconventional education and career paths, and ensure we adequately recognise skills that are acquired outside the conventional educational institutions,” he said in a statement.

It will be the job of the government’s VPET partners – cantons and professional organisations - to carry out the principles of the strategy, the statement added.

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