How can Washington offer more career options to students? Part of the answer can be found in Switzerland

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“We have to stop telling our kids that a four-year degree is the only way to start their paths to success. Most of them will require education and training after high school, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they have to start with a four-year college degree.”

Those were Gov. Jay Inslee’s words in May when he launched his Career Connect Washington initiative and announced his goal of connecting 100,000 students to career-connected learning opportunities in the next five years.

And that goal is what inspired a high-level delegation of leaders traveling to Switzerland this month for an immersive four-day study mission to learn about the country’s widely lauded apprenticeship system.

Approximately 45 delegates representing business, labor, education, philanthropy and government organizations learned how the country has created an ecosystem in which business, government, and education come together as partners to create apprenticeship pathways to diverse careers. Approximately 70 percent of young people choose apprenticeships instead of traditional high school.

The delegation visited leading Swiss businesses, apprentice training centers, career counseling centers and the country’s top university to meet with apprentices, educators, parents, researchers, government officials and business leaders.

“In Switzerland, the system is designed for everyone and there is no stigma,” said Suzi LeVine, former U.S. Ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein, and a delegation co-chair along with her husband, Eric LeVine. “What Eric and I saw during my time as ambassador and what our delegation saw during our visit, is that apprenticeship is the ultimate in project-based learning and is the best delivery vehicle for 21st century skills.”

Swiss businesses are creators, not just consumers of talent. They pay for about 60 percent of the costs of the country’s apprenticeship program and most see a 7–10 percent return within three to four years, according to professor Stefan Wolter, director of the Swiss Coordination Center for Research in Education, who presented his research to the delegation on their first night in Bern.

Read more on the governor's Medium page.

Media Contacts

Tara Lee
Governor Inslee’s Communications Office