Institutional Dimensions of Swiss VET. Measures of Standardisation, Differentiation and Vocational Specificity in Swiss Upper Secondary Vocational Education and Training.

Grønning, Miriam; Kriesi, Irene; Sacchi, Stefan (January 2018). Institutional Dimensions of Swiss VET. Measures of Standardisation, Differentiation and Vocational Specificity in Swiss Upper Secondary Vocational Education and Training. Zollikofen: Swiss Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (SFIVET)

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Swiss VET has a long tradition and is valued as an adequate preparation for labour market entry and for entry into vocationally oriented tertiary education (Cattaneo & Wolter, 2016). It represents the most important pathway into the labour market for Swiss youth, with two thirds of those finishing compulsory school enrolling in VET on upper secondary level (SERI, 2016, p. 11). The dual system, which combines apprenticeship training in a firm with lessons in vocational school and inter-company courses, provides highly specialized skill sets, which correspond closely to the competence profiles required in skilled workers positions. Thus, transition from VET to work is comparably smooth. However, not every diploma holder finds a (matching) job. In Switzerland there is a rising risk of unemployment and skill mismatch for young VET diploma holders. In some occupations there are considerable levels of youth unemployment (Salvisberg & Sacchi, 2014). Thus, there are substantial differences between education programs and training occupations in their capacity to integrate young skilled workers into the labour market. In international comparative research, differences in institutional characteristics of education systems have been used to explain different patterns of labour market entry. Cross-country-differences in institutional characteristics, such as levels of standardisation, stratification, differentiation, vocational orientation, occupational closure, institutional linkage andcertification have been proposed in order to explain why skill development and patterns of inequality at labour market entry differ between countries (Breen, 2005; de Lange, Gesthuizen, & Wolbers, 2014; Konietzka, 2002; Levels, van der Velden, & Di Stasio, 2014; van de Werfhorst, 2011; Wolbers, 2007). However, the mechanisms explaining national differencesbetween occupations are located at the level of national educational programs and can thus not be reliably tested with country comparisons. In other words, there is a lack of research regarding the mechanisms, which explain how different institutional contexts lead to differences in skill development and labour market prospects. Thus, data on within country differences in institutional characteristics is needed. Moreover, with this data it is possible to further explore segment specific or regional differences in the effects of institutional dimension, e.g. the opportunities within labour market segments.However, information on these within-country differences has hitherto been hard to obtain. Consequently, this topic is largely missing in recent research. Our aim is therefore to provide data on the differences in the institutional characteristics between Swiss upper secondary VET programs. We consider the following dimensions: exam standardisation, vertical differentiation, horizontal differentiation and vocational specificity. Apart from the fact that these dimensions have been fruitful when analysing school-to-work transitions in a comparative perspective, we have chosen these dimensions because they vary substantially between the training occupations of Swiss upper secondary VET. In addition information on these characteristics are easily obtainable in the curricula and ordinances of the training occupations. Seite 4 Theories on labour market integration point to two main mechanisms explaining why institutional dimensions should affect labour market outcomes. Firstly, it is assumed that institutional dimensions impact the skill and competence development of students, both in terms of the skill profile as well as the competence level. Secondly, with regard to the labourmarket, it is argued that the signalling power is affected by the institutional arrangements of each training program. The signalling power of a VET Diploma in turn shapes employers hiring decisions and influences job quality features, such as income or the probability for fixed-termcontracts, part-time employment or horizontal and vertical match. However, to explore these relationships further, the relevant institutional dimensions have to be defined and operationalized within a national framework. This paper describes the transfer of the theoretical concepts from the comparative literature to the Swiss VET context. In other words, we make suggestions on how to operationalize exam standardisation, vertical differentiation, horizontal differentiation and vocational specificity for Swiss upper secondary vocationaleducation and training.In the remainder of this paper we will give an overview of our theoretical framework and basic assumptions. Thereafter the existing literature regarding effects of institutional characteristics on skill development and labour market outcomes is briefly discussed. In these two sections, we will focus mainly on the theory and empirical evidence regarding labour market allocation. The collected data can, however, be used to investigate other aspects, such as career mobility, further training, inclusion, the apprenticeship market or companies’ costs of apprenticeship training. In the fourth section the Swiss VET system as well as the operationalization of the different institutional dimensions within the Swiss context is presented. Last, we give an example on how our data can shed light on the institutional structures of Swiss upper secondary VET.

Item Type:

Working Paper


03 Faculty of Business, Economics and Social Sciences > Social Sciences > Institute of Sociology

UniBE Contributor:

Sacchi, Stefan


300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology
300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology > 370 Education


Swiss Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (SFIVET)


[42] Schweizerischer Nationalfonds




Stefan Sacchi

Date Deposited:

24 Jun 2019 11:19

Last Modified:

29 Oct 2019 08:06

Uncontrolled Keywords:

Vocational Education and Training (VET) Institutions Switzerland Curricula




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