Many Swiss students are passing up a free college education to enroll in a vocational school, according to a recent article published in Time.  The system is funded by the private sector and is extremely successful.

Currently, approximately 58,000 Swiss companies provide VET [Vocational Education and Training] program to roughly 80,000 apprentices – impressive numbers in a country of only 8 million people. They offer training in commercial, retail, healthcare, technology, and other fields. “Businesses regard training of young people as their social responsibility,” says Franziska Schwarz, Vice Director of the Federal Office for Professional Education and Technology (OPET), which oversees the country’s vocational programs.

Collectively, participating companies invest $5.4 billion into three-year VET programs to cover the cost of apprentices’ salaries, training materials, and instructors. However,  Schwarz points out that this figure is outweighed by the “productive output” generated by apprentices, which amounts to $5.8 billion, netting a profit for businesses of over $400 million.

Apprentices too are well compensated at the end of their training cycles. An average starting salary for a VET graduate in the commercial sector is about $50,000 a year, though they can expect their earnings to grow. And if they choose to pursue post-VET education in higher technical or commercial schools, they can earn close to $100,000, according to OPET.

Students begin their vocational training in (what we call) high school and must meet high expectations and standards to complete the course of study.  Vocational education is a core component of Pat McCrory’s education plan.  Walter Dalton mentions vocational education in his education plan.