With a population of only 8.6 million, Switzerland has nurtured world-class industries such as machine tools, watches and clocks, and biomedicine. The key for Swiss related industries to maintain the world’s leading innovation capabilities is that its mature dual education system has trained a large number of high-quality employees and researchers familiar with front-line production processes for enterprises.
The background of Swiss education
Switzerland is a federal country consisting of 26 cantons, most of which implement 9-year compulsory education from primary to junior high school.
It is worth mentioning that in the stage of compulsory education, Switzerland pays attention to cultivating students’ practical ability and innovative consciousness. From elementary school, Swiss schools offer handmade lessons on topics such as weaving, sewing, and decorating. Each elementary school is equipped with an industrial sewing machine classroom. Children must learn to operate and complete complex sewing works. Teachers will grade them according to strict standards and will be included in the semester evaluation, including turning not to cross the line, and cleaning the thread ends. These lessons develop children’s hands-on skills and a rigorous and careful style of work.
Students in Switzerland will be divided into different junior high school classes according to their grades after graduating from primary school. In the future, students who are going to go to ordinary high schools and colleges to take the academic road have high requirements for their academic performance. At the same time, the school will also arrange for students to visit related companies to increase children’s understanding of various occupations and inspire their respect for skilled workers and craftsmen.
Vocational Education Connecting the Market
Switzerland’s basic education, vocational education and higher education have developed in a balanced way, and its dual education system enjoys a good reputation around the world.
Swiss students begin to divert after completing 9 years of compulsory education, that is, graduating from junior high school. Statistics show that 1/3 of Swiss students enter a regular high school after finishing junior high school to prepare for university; two-thirds of Swiss students enter vocational high school (commonly known as apprenticeship school) after graduating from junior high school.
In vocational high schools, students can choose a profession for systematic study according to their own interests and abilities, study theoretical courses at school for half a week, practice in enterprises for two or three days, and obtain federal vocational education and technology upon graduation. Diploma, can be directly employed, become civil engineering drafters, mechanics, automation technicians and other basic professionals, can also enter higher vocational colleges or pass the examination to enter the University of Applied Sciences and even the Federal Institute of Technology to study for an engineer degree.
Vocational education in Switzerland includes more than 300 subdivisions, and the professions taught keep pace with the times.
According to the report “Emerging Occupations and Obsolete Occupations” released by the Swiss Employment Information Network in October 2019, photo printing assistants, cobblers, metal printers and other types of work have been eliminated one after another, hearing aid acousticians, pharmaceutical product technicians, chemical and pharmaceutical practitioners, etc. New types of work have begun to recruit apprentices in recent years.
Jurgen Schweri, a professor at the Swiss Federal Institute of Vocational Education and Training, said in an interview with the Swiss media that the elimination of old jobs and the rise of new ones reflects the development trend of the economy and society. He said several new apprenticeships, such as hearing aid acousticians and pharmaceutical product technicians, reflected technological innovation in Switzerland, and the emergence of chemical pharmaceutical practitioners was linked to the regulatory needs of the pharmaceutical industry.
Large Swiss companies work closely with professional vocational schools, such as watch, machinery, food, banking and other groups have corresponding vocational schools, with mentoring and employment training.
For example, the Swiss machine tool industry can support watches and other precision manufacturing industries, always maintain a leading position in the world and continue to innovate and iterate. An important reason is that its mature dual education system and vocational education have provided a large number of qualified and Demand high-quality employees and engineers and researchers who are familiar with front-line production processes. The main body of employees of Swiss enterprises is graduates of vocational schools, and their innovative ability of production technology can be connected and complemented with the theoretical innovation ability of university graduates.
Switzerland ranks first in the world in the number of patent applications per capita, many of which are innovations and improvements of a traditional process by front-line industrial workers or family-owned business owners. Such patents are more conducive to the transformation of innovations in the industry.
From apprentice to doctorate
The Swiss vocational education system is two-way through: one end is connected to the market, the other end is connected to the university education system.
Under Switzerland’s dual education system, most young people choose vocational education, and they can obtain relevant certificates after completing “apprenticeship” education. After several years of work experience, they can also study at the University of Applied Sciences. Compared with ordinary universities, such universities have clearer professional orientation, and the teaching content is more practical. Students entering such universities specialize in a field such as industrial engineering, business, computer science and technology. After students complete their undergraduate studies in the University of Applied Sciences, they can also apply to continue their studies in ordinary universities. “You may start out with mechanics and get a vocational education diploma, then you can go to a university of applied sciences and get an undergraduate degree, then go to a regular university to get an EMBA and become a company executive, which is commonplace in Switzerland. things.” said a Swiss scholar.
The academic system between vocational education and general education in Switzerland is similar. Students can have the opportunity to choose again at different stages. Graduates of vocational schools can also enter the university system through corresponding examinations to start undergraduate, master and doctoral studies. , for a higher level of creativity and innovation.
Balanced and efficient innovation ecosystem
In the 2021 Global Innovation Index report released by the World Intellectual Property Organization, Switzerland ranks first in the world. The report shows that only Switzerland and Sweden have remained in the top three innovation rankings for many years.
Economies that excel in innovation tend to have balanced and excellent innovation systems, the report noted. Translating an economy’s investment in innovation into innovation output in the form of R&D, education, solid infrastructure and institutions that support innovative activity is no easy task. With a comparable level of innovation input, Switzerland’s output level is much higher than that of other high-income economies.
According to the analysis, a balanced and efficient innovation ecosystem in Switzerland mainly has the following three characteristics.
First, the government has cultivated all kinds of talents needed by the industry through the triple system of vocational education, applied science and technology universities and research universities under the dual system model.
The second is to build an industrial innovation platform. Through the establishment of university research institutes and industrial research institutes, the university’s original technology will be pushed to the front line of the industry step by step, and then the “last mile” of technology industrialization will be completed through the establishment of industrial funding projects.
It is understood that every university in Switzerland is equipped with a technology transfer office. Whether it is a professor or a student, the university will encourage and help them to transform their academic achievements and inventions into technology, and provide a full range of services and international advanced resources. Most of the universities in Switzerland are public. When promoting the marketization of innovation results, universities often do not take shareholdings, but obtain income in the form of mastering patent intellectual property rights.
Third, the innovation cooperation between universities and between universities and enterprises is very close. The cooperation between the two Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology (ETH Zurich, EPFL) and the Swiss University of Applied Sciences is very close. The engineers of the Polytechnic University focus on high-tech research and development, and the students and professors of the University of Applied Sciences often come from The production line is more familiar with the production process and specific production links, so it pays more attention to industrial practice innovation. Both work closely with corporations, many of which sponsor university R&D labs, and are not limited to high-tech products.
Innovation in Switzerland is multi-level, not all high-tech, nor are they completed by doctors or professors; Swiss innovation is not limited to well-known large companies such as ABB, Roche, Novartis, Nestle, but more in China. Thriving in small businesses, the innovations of these SMEs have made Switzerland a global champion in many segments.