Monitoring process

OBS SFUVET uses a self-developed monitoring method to identify technological, economic and social trends and associated challenges for vocational education and training.

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Trend monitoring is based on a source pool of current scientific and technical texts published at national and international level by practitioners, researchers and policymakers as well as on a general approach to analyse textual sources. Following a multiple-step, systematic procedure, OBS SFUVET researchers screen publications and identify trends and potential challenges affecting VET. From this, further questions are developed and trend topics are analysed in depth. Publications, conferences and workshops with subject matter experts and specialists facilitate professional discussion and the further development of VET.

Our monitoring method

Lead questions

Trend monitoring activities are guided by the following lead questions:

  1. What technological, economic or social trends and developments have an impact on VET?
  2. How are key aspects of the VET system changing as a result of these developments?
  3. Where is action needed to ensure that the VET system remains functional and sustainable?
Monitoring process

OBS SFUVET has developed a multiple-step monitoring process to systematically address these lead questions.

1. Identify changes and challenges affecting VET: SFUVET researchers systematically screen trends with this aim in mind. Over a period of one to two years, they search through and analyse recent publications from the source pool in order to detect trends and possible challenges affecting vocational education and training. They then document the quantitative and qualitative results on the OBS SFUVET website and draft brief working papers (Trends in Focus) devoted to selected topics.

2. Categorise trend topics and challenges and choose follow-up questions: To this end, researchers systematically work on a given trend topic and clarify its importance for vocational education and training. This is accomplished through an in-depth review of literature and the processing of statistical data. The results appear in the form of trend reports in the corresponding OBS SFUVET publication series, e.g. the trend report on digitalisation and VET released in the autumn 2018.

3. Assess and conduct in-depth analysis of particular trend topics through research: This analysis of selected trend topics takes place within the context of specific research and development projects pursued by OBS SFUVET. The results also appear in the form of trend reports, e.g. the trend report ‘Trained health care assistants - what are the prospects after graduation?’ (2017) and the trend report ‘Federal Vocational Baccalaureate: Admission, Career Paths and Prospects' (2020).

4. Share and develop results further: OBS SFUVET researchers discuss their findings together with representatives of the Confederation, the cantons and professional organisations as well as with vocational education and training specialists. The OBS SFUVET Advisory Board is comprised of representatives of professional organisations, the cantons, the Confederation and research institutions. Each year, it receives trend monitoring data and assesses their relevance and urgency for vocational education and training. OBS SFUVET organizes transfer events with associations, professional organisations, companies and training providers to share its findings with stakeholders from various occupational fields and VET practitioners.

Monitoring process OBS
Source pool

The data basis for trend monitoring is a source pool comprised of articles from around 40 national and international journals and periodicals covering various disciplines and VET-related areas of activity. These include peer-reviewed journals as well as grey research reports, discussion papers and working papers. Over a period of one to two years, researchers examine and analyse these publications - i.e. articles and reports from the source pool - to identify trends and potential challenges affecting VET. In addition to this procedure, a database search is also conducted at regular intervals to confirm the validity of the literature available in the source pool. In addition to this procedure, a database search is also conducted at regular intervals to confirm the validity of the literature available in the source pool. 

In the period 2020 (autumn 2018 - autumn 2020) there were around 1300 articles and reports on VET practices, policies and educational science: Examples of important resources from the source pool include the following: Examples of important resources from the source pool include the following:

General approach

In order to answer the lead questions, OBS SFUVET researchers analyse the sources using a general approach developed for this purpose and corresponding analysis categories (see Fig.). Using these analysis categories as a frame of reference, all sources taken into account during the monitoring process are coded for subsequent quantitative and qualitative assessment. The general approach is based on Swiss educational documents deemed to be of strategic and scientific importance (e.g. Leitbild BB2030 (SERI 2018), the Swiss Education Report (SKBF 2018) and the Federal Council Dispatch on the Promotion of Education, Research and Innovation for 2017-2020). The main categories considered in the general approach are:

1. Current megatrends affecting VET
2. VET input
3. VET outcomes

Current megatrends affecting VET: at present, trends such as upskilling, digitalisation, migration, developments on the labour market and the market for skilled labour as well as the importance (social image) of vocational education and training are among the megatrends affecting vocational education and training. Currently less prominent trends are globalisation and internationalisation, health and environmental trends (see latest results).

VET input: ‘VET inputs’ are activities that the Confederation, the cantons, professional organisations, companies, workplace trainers and vocational school teachers pursue in  order to achieve important vocational education and training objectives. This includes workplace training, classroom instruction, branch courses, the corresponding pedagogical-didactic methods, the forms of teaching and learning used, teacher training, career counselling, review and revision of VET programmes as well as the partnership dynamics between the Confederation, the cantons and professional organisations that produce prevailing structural, financial and political conditions.

VET outcomes: ‘VET outcomes’ are short- to medium-term objectives to be achieved by system stakeholders. Important VET outcomes include the integration capacity of VET, the flexibility/permeability of the VET system and its education and training options. In addition, successful completion of VET and the employability of vocational qualification holders are important VET outcomes. Added to this is the occupational and educational mobility of vocational qualification holders as well as the national and international status (‘image’) of VET.

Overarching social values such as innovation, social security, economic prosperity and social participation are additional categories relating to the desired long-term effects of a functioning VET system. They enable comprehensive discussion of the results of monitoring with respect to the long-term role and future prospects of vocational education and training in society.

General approach

All articles and reports in the source pool are coded, i.e. indexed and sorted into analysis categories. This coding can be used for quantitative assessment, e.g. to identify whether frequent mention is made in sources of a correlation between specific megatrends and VET inputs or outcomes (see examples). On this basis, assumptions can be drawn about potential challenges affecting VET. The OBS SFUVET Advisory Board and other VET researchers and practitioners discuss and assess these results at regular intervals. This assessment is then taken into account in the orientation of SFUVET publications and follow-up projects.

Publications and outputs

Research projects are initiated in response to monitoring and results are published in various forms:

  • Website: results of particular monitoring periods (see latest results).
  • Trends in focus: regularly published short working papers on identified trend topics. The latest trends in focus can be found here
  • Trend reports: OBS SFUVET has its own publication series in which it publishes trend reports on current topics at regular intervals.

The transfer of trend monitoring results is achieved through the sharing of knowledge and information with VET practitioners and policymakers. The following means are used for this purpose:

  • Presentations at symposiums and events.
  • Workshops with the OBS SFUVET Advisory Board.
  • Articles published in trade journals and scientific journals.
  • Specially designed contract research and consulting projects, e.g. relating to specific occupations or matters of interest to the cantons.

Project team