Developing two-year apprenticeships in Norway and Switzerland
Over the last 15 years, different countries have developed low-level vocational education and training (VET) programmes for young people who struggle to enter or complete education at upper secondary level. Switzerland introduced nationally standardised two-year initial VET programmes in 2005, Norway in 2016. Data of interviews with curriculum experts in Norway and Switzerland provided an empirical basis to examine the underlying intentions for offering these programmes and the respective criteria for defining the learning outcomes and the curricula. The reference frame in Norway for identifying appropriate learning outcomes and selecting learning goals are the national curricula of the respective four-year VET programmes. In Switzerland, the learning outcomes of two-year curricula are defined by lower-level occupational activities which are usually identified in analyses involving active workers and experts in the respective fields. Despite these differences, the criteria for developing two-year curricula are largely the same in both countries. The findings further show that two-year VET programmes in Norway are not intended to lead to a direct labour market entry but are understood as a first step of a staged qualification whereas in Switzerland they are designed to find a viable balance between employability and permeability to the more demanding three- or four-year VET programmes. In both countries, the two-year apprenticeships do not correspond to a holistic concept of vocation.