The Swiss education system today has no viable offers for qualified lateral entrants. Therefore, Swissmem is launching a retraining scheme for qualified staff whose jobs are at risk due to changes.
The economy, therefore the labour market as well, are subjected to constant changes. In future, employees will come under increasing pressure to change their professions and professional environment. The process of digitalisation will accelerate this change and affect employees at all levels of qualifications. Switzerland must therefore succeed in balancing out the structural issues on the labour market. “We are short of specific qualified personnel such as information scientists, technicians and engineers”, said Hans Hess, president of the professional association Swissmem at a press conference in Zurich early in March 2018. “Over the next few years, 10,000 people in the ten most important professions in the machine, electrical and metal industry will retire. Only 2,500 people will fill their places”, he added.
System generates losers
That employees change their professions during their working lives is nothing new. Today, 59 % of employees no longer work in the profession for which they originally trained. This trend will increase with the onset of digitalisation. Anyone wishing to change their jobs today can only do so with a sufficient bank balance. In sequence: a change of job results in a slight phase of unemployment. Anyone wishing or forced to change their professional environment frequently descends from a qualified job to one that only requires lower qualifications. Today’s professional mobility is thus creating a lot of losers. Swissmem has used this problem as an opportunity to produce a model of retraining that should make it easier to convert to a new professional environment and contribute towards the best possible exploitation of domestic professional staff resources.
Closing the loophole in the education system
The Swiss education system is currently geared to training young people and providing further training within the same profession. But it does not foresee a change of profession through retraining. “The situation is tough for lateral entrants from other professional environments”, explains Hess. Therefore, Swissmem’s model of retraining focuses on qualified people whose jobs are in danger due to a shift in qualifications. The idea behind this is not professional training in the ordinary sense of the term, but the provision of secondary training with suitable final certification, taking into account and recognising the person’s available skills. This would close a loophole in Switzerland’s current education system.
The question of funding remains
Financing the training and the costs of living during the course of training poses the biggest challenges. Because unemployment insurance is geared to “getting rid” of jobseekers as quickly as possible, the financing of the retraining – not to mention the retraining scheme itself – can only work if employees, employers, professional organisations, the federation and the cantons all make their contribution towards it. Swissmen is launching a fund to cover the first pilot project (starts in 2019). “We shall see if there is any public interest in this project and whether the unemployment insurance will adjust to it”, says Hess.