# 1 / 2023

How Switzerland remains successful - the seven pillars of innovation capacity

Pillar 2: Excellent education system and strong dual apprenticeship programme

Education is nowadays one of the most crucial conditions for technical progress and innovation. Accordingly, the level of education should also develop in parallel with technical progress. There is a fundamental interaction between education on the one hand and research and development investment on the other when it comes to generating research capacity. An indispensable prerequisite for the sensible use of public and private funds is the availability of a sufficient supply of highly qualified and well-trained specialists.

When education is considered in the context of innovation, the importance of excellence cannot be emphasised strongly enough. Many well-known innovators graduated from one of the world's best universities. Universities also fulfil the important task of bringing together bright minds. The USA in particular, with its elite universities, has an international signal effect that is also reflected in economic performance. In Switzerland, the ETH domain plays a central role. If we look at the correlation between top universities per million inhabitants and the innovative strength of countries, it becomes apparent that there is a correlation regardless of causality. Countries with great innovative strength have a significantly higher density of top universities per inhabitant. Autonomous, strongly financed universities that are internationally competitive are therefore an important innovation factor.

The vocational and professional education and training (VET/PET) system, with its basic and advanced VET programmes, is another cornerstone of Switzerland's innovative capacity. The dual education system, with the option of simplified tertiary study after an apprenticeship, enables a broad, practice-oriented range of education. It is crucial for the higher permeability of educational pathways that young people can complete tertiary education after an apprenticeship in order to deepen the competences relevant in their professional field. VET also helps to ensure a higher capacity for innovation with a broad "skill mix" in companies. The cooperation of people with qualifications at different levels of education has an important added value for innovation.

Looking at today's labour market in Switzerland, it can be seen that degrees at the university of applied sciences and higher vocational education level are very much in demand from business and industry. This is presumably because a preliminary practical experience within a vocational apprenticeship provides practical expertise, which is a prerequisite in many professions for academic knowledge to be used in the first place. Thus, it becomes clear that not only excellent education, which above all covers in-depth knowledge, is decisive for innovation. Permeability and practical relevance are other crucial components for young people to fully showcase their abilities.

The trend for students to increasingly choose a grammar school instead of a vocational apprenticeship is evident in Switzerland and is likely to increase further. While excellence in university education is central, an increased shift away from vocational training significantly weakens Switzerland's innovative strength. Switzerland's dual education system is probably unique in the world and a key success factor. However, it is crucial that the permeability of the educational pathways is further increased and that the various systems are made more compatible.

Not to be forgotten is the ever-increasing importance of lifelong learning. The rapid changes on the labour market require continuing education. In the future, however, it will no longer be possible to make such a clear distinction between education and training. The education system is required to react more flexibly than in the past in order to meet the changing demands of the labour market. Knowledge and skills are becoming outdated more quickly.

Takeaway 2: Good education is one of the most decisive conditions for innovation today. A key success factor is an excellent education system with strong dual vocational training, combined with a high degree of permeability of educational pathways.