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Companies should consider economic benefits of apprenticeships

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Photo by Leandi Kolver

Photo by Leandi Kolver

11th December 2014

By: Leandi Kolver

Creamer Media Deputy Editor

  

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Companies should engage in the training of young people through offering apprenticeships for economic reasons and not only because they felt obliged to serve their country, says Swiss Coordination Centre for Research and Education director Professor Stefan Wolter.

Addressing a delegation from South Africa he, however, explained that it would not make economic sense for all companies to take in apprentices and, therefore, these companies should not be expected to do so.

Companies benefited from offering apprenticeships in two main ways, namely through using apprentices to substitute unskilled workers in the company, which led to short-term benefits, as well as by ensuring that the future skills needed by the company would be available through training enough people.

Wolter explained that the latter approach was a “development strategy with a bet on the future”.

In addition, companies could also save on hiring costs if apprentices were offered permanent positions upon having completed their apprenticeships – which in Switzerland lasted between three and four years, and was done in conjunction with theoretical classes attended at a vocational college. This was known as the dual system.

Further, keeping apprentices as permanent employees also allowed a company to cut out the four to five months adjustment period usually required by a new employee to get used to a company and its internal systems.

Wolter noted that for each apprentice taken on an average Swiss company had to invest about €25 000 a year; however, research had shown that the companies received a rate of return of about 7% to 10% on this investment.

But not all companies would derive these benefits as some were simply too small to generate enough work to justify an apprentice, while others did not have enough skilled work for the apprentice or only required highly-skilled people.

Therefore, these companies would incur a loss should they undertake an apprenticeship programme. If government was to subsidise these companies to take on apprentices, the funds provided would have to be significant and would not make economic sense for the country.

Thus, in Switzerland, companies were not obliged to offer apprenticeships, however, about 40% of businesses still decided to do so.

Edited by Tracy Hancock
Creamer Media Contributing Editor

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