Click on the sections below to find out more about a specific topic.
Parents: don’t be tempted to base your ideas of vocational training in Switzerland on those in your home country. If – as in many countries – vocational training at home is seen as for students who don’t succeed academically, you might be tempted to assume it’s the same here. In fact, most Swiss students (80 per cent) opt to enter this stream.
While in other countries, little money is invested in vocational training, and diplomas might not be valued highly, here in Switzerland the government and industry invest a lot of time and money in order to make training programmes relevant and high quality. Indeed, departments of education elsewhere are now turning to the Swiss system as a model of good practice.
Vocational training here leads to well-qualified, well-paid jobs and low youth unemployment. Don’t brush this option aside: it may offer your child a wonderful opportunity.
Students: for all vocational training, do go and visit the Berufsberatung (Basel’s career-guidance service). If you already know what you want to do, they can help you find the best study path. If you’re not yet sure which direction you are going in, they can help you choose through discussions, tests, videos of potential jobs, and so on. It is essential for anyone thinking about their future career. Call them or email them in advance to make an appointment:
Tel. 061 267 86 87
There are two main types of vocational training in Basel: on-the-job vocational training (with two sub-versions: a short two-year training and a more common three-to-four year training) or a school-based vocational training at the Fachmaturitätsschule (FMS). It is worth reading about both types as they address slightly different needs.
On-the-job Vocational training
On-the-job training is considered to be one reason why youth unemployment is so low in Switzerland (8 per cent in Switzerland compared to around 18 per cent in the US or UK, or close to 50 per cent in Spain, CIA World Factbook, 2012).
All Berufliche Grundbildung (Vocational Education and Training, VET) programmes lead to a certificate or diploma recognised in the whole of Switzerland. Programmes are developed by the vocational schools, in close cooperation with businesses to ensure that they meet the needs of the workplace. Students are paid during their studies and their wages increase as they progress. Students have 5 weeks of holidays a year.
There are two main types of on-the-job vocational training:
a short apprenticeship in two years, leading to an Eidgenössisches Berufsattest (EBA, Federal VET certificate), or
a three-to-four year training, which leads to an Eidgenössisches Fähigkeitszeugnis (EFZ, Federal VET Diploma), and then to a Berufsmaturität.
How much time you will need will depend on what type of job you want.
Eidgenössisches Berufsattest (EBA)
The two-year training towards an EBA offers practice-oriented training without high academic requirements. You will usually spend one day a week at a specialised school and the other four days in a supervised workplace. With this type of training you might train as a florist, an assistant mechanic, an office assistant, to work with horses, or in a hotel or restaurant.
The EBA is ideal for someone who wants to get out into the ‘real world’ as soon as possible, but with a recognised diploma. If, at the end of your two years, you decide you want to continue onto a higher level or to specialise, you can enter the three- to four-year vocational training path.
You will find more information about the different jobs you can train for on this website.
Eidgenössisches Fähigkeitszeugnis (EFZ)
The three-to-four year vocational training towards an Eidgenössisches Fähigkeitszeugnis (EFZ) takes place in a vocational school (classes include general culture such as German, Maths, environmental studies and professional knowledge, e.g. programming), on the job and during intercompany special training courses.
Before you start an EFZ, you must find an apprentice position in a company and sign a training contract. Your careers advisor at your middle school and the Berufsberatung should be able to help you with this. Jobs are linked directly to the needs of the job market, and the quality of the training is high, ensuring a successful start to a career.
The EFZ covers all areas of the job market – from health care to banking, transport to hotel management.
Be warned: the best apprenticeships are in high demand so you will need high grades to get a place. If your grades aren’t high enough to get the training you want immediately, you may be able to do a ‘bridge year’ (the so-called Brückenangebote). This extra year gives students the chance to earn higher grades and prepare for the training they want.
After a final exam, you will receive an EFZ, which is recognised across Switzerland.
With an EFZ, you can continue to do a Berufs- und höhere Fachprüfung, or go to a Höhere Fachschule. These offer third-level education in specialised areas, emphasising the professional aspect rather than research.
If you are a hard worker, in parallel to your vocational training, you can prepare for a Berufsmaturität (Vocational Matura). You can also do a Berufsmaturität after your EFZ in one year as a full time course, or in two years if you work and study at the same time. There are six different areas of specialisation: technical, commercial, design, trade, natural sciences and health and social studies. You may have to take an entrance examination, depending on your previous studies and grades. Discuss this option with your future company and the vocational school beforehand.
A Berufsmaturität will allow you to enter a Fachhochschule (University of Applied Sciences) in the same area that you have studied – without taking an exam beforehand. (This can in fact be the quickest route to some jobs.) For example, if you want to become an architect, you can enter the Fachhochschule for architecture without an exam if you have done Drawing and have specialised in Architecture during your vocational training. If you hold a Matura, you will need to do an extra year working as an apprentice in an architect’s office before you can apply to the Fachhochschule in architecture. However, if you have a Berufsmatura in Industrial Drawing, you wouldn’t usually be able to enter a Fachhochschule for Business Studies or Teacher Training. So, it is important to think carefully about which area you want to study before you make your choice. However, it is always possible to change your mind later – but it will take you a little longer to reach your goal.
If, after a Berufsmaturität, you decide you do want to go to university, you will need to complete a Passerelle year. This is a one-year programme to prepare you for university. To get in, you need an average of 4.8 (6 being the highest grade) in your Berufsmaturität (Vocational Matura). This is a very hard year that requires full time studies. Many students have to repeat the year.
In Basel, the Passerelle course is offered at Kirschgartengymnasium. It is a two-semester course with 15 45-minute lessons and about 26 hours of independent study a week. Working students shouldn’t work more than 25% during the course period.
You will be tested in German, English, Mathematics, natural sciences (physics, chemistry and biology) and social sciences (geography and history). If you succeed, you will be able to apply to all universities, and applied universities, the ETH (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology), or sit the entrance exam for medical studies. For the access it gives you to higher education, it is in all points comparable to a Matura.