Study on the value of apprenticeships on the Swiss labour market

In this study, researchers assesses various VET programmes in terms of labour market outcomes. This study ties in with previous studies on the topic. Researchers also examine how the value of apprenticeships has changed over time and why.

Adobe Stock / Daniel Ernst

In the first phase of the study, researchers reviewed existing literature and summarise the latest findings on the value of formal qualifications on the labour market. Relevant research publications on the Swiss context were taken into account.

In the second phase of the study, researchers compared the labour market outcomes experienced by holders of various formal education qualifications. The following core variables were considered:

  • Labour market integration and workweek percentage
  • Employment and unemployment
  • Hourly wage and earned income
  • Working conditions and job quality
  • Extent of alignment between the job held and the education and training received

Key questions in this area were how closely and in what respects are tertiary-level professional and higher education qualifications correlated with better labour market outcomes and how these correlations have changed over the last 20 years. In this context, the following questions were also considered: How has the situation of high- and low-skilled workers developed over time? How has the supply side of the labour market been affected by demographic changes, immigration, the labour market participation of women and expansion of education and what impact has this had on the value of individual VET programmes?

In the third phase, researchers turned their attention to the labour market outcomes of holders of upper-secondary level vocational qualifications. In particular, how has the value of an apprenticeship changed over time? Are there differences in terms of socio-demographic criteria (e.g. between women and men)? Referring to existing literature, the most common occupations were analysed on the basis of the core variables listed in section 3.2 (e.g. commercial employees, retail clerks, health and social care professionals, IT specialists). What careers can be pursued today by individuals holding an upper-secondary level vocational qualification and no other qualification? What has changed in this respect over the last 20 years? What impact do Swiss universities of applied sciences and the Swiss professional education sector have on the labour market and on labour market outcomes? Are there any differences between individual professions? Which qualifications have been in particularly high demand on the labour market and what can be deduced from this about the demand for different, and possibly also new, skills?

  • Descriptive statistical methods
  • Linear regression models
  • Quantile regressions

This report (in German) describes how the individual opportunities and risks on the Swiss labor market vary for people with different educational pathways and qualifications – and how these differences have changed over the past 20 to 25 years. In a first stage, we outline the change in the educational structure over this period using different data sources. This reveals significant changes – the proportion of people with tertiary-level qualifications has risen significantly in particular. Behind this development lies a general trend towards higher qualifications, a shift towards immigrants holding tertiary degrees and an increasing level of female employment. The main part of the study looks at the employment and salary situation of people with different educational backgrounds, which is supplemented by the working population’s subjective assessment of their own employment situation. In a first stage, we describe the integration of people with different educational pathways into the employment market. While there are significant differences between various educational background groups, few notable changes are identified over the period. A similar pattern emerges in relation to the average pay level of the educational background groups. We find very significant differences in median pay between people with different educational qualifications, but pay differences are remarkably stable over the period. This does not just apply to average pay but also to the respective low and high pay levels in the various educational background groups in an almost identical way. A comparison of the change in aggregated salary distribution shows that the rise in the aggregated pay level is largely attributable to the increase in the proportion of people with higher qualifications and consequently higher salaries. In a further step, we document that the wage distributions of groups with different educational pathways overlap to a considerable degree, one of the reasons being that there exist significant and persistent pay differences between various sectors.

Overall, there is little indication of devaluation of vocational education and training qualifications during the period under review. In terms of relative wage development, the increasing proportion of the workforce with higher qualifications resulted in an apparent devaluation of all educational qualifications. However, as the study also shows, there is no absolute devaluation of training/education but instead relative shifts in the structure of the qualifications of the workforce. Finally, the employment and pay opportunities associated with educational qualifications only have a limited impact on a person’s subjective satisfaction with their own employment situation. This indicates that objective labor market indicators – such as the risk of unemployment or level of pay – do not permit full evaluation of the individual value of educational qualifications.