Future of Apprenticeships conference
Future of Apprenticeships conference © Swiss Embassy

Collaborations on Apprenticeships and nurturing emerging science leaders

Australia stands as a pivotal partner for Switzerland, marked by continued extensive collaborations and exchanges among researchers and universities. Both nations have forged agreements facilitating work experience and language skill enhancement for young professionals. In an effort to amplify awareness about existing exchange programs and encourage mobility, the Embassy of Switzerland in Australia initiated the Headstart campaign, which aim is to spotlight a range of programs providing Australian and Swiss early-career researchers and young professionals opportunities to study in both countries.

The second call for applications for the Mertz fellowship, named after Dr. Xavier Mertz from Basel – the first Swiss citizen to set foot in Antarctica – resulted in the award of two fellowships funded by the Swissnex network and the Swiss Polar Institute. This fellowship, targeting early-career researchers from the polar and high-altitude science communities in Switzerland and Australia, continues to nurture a cohort of emerging science leaders committed to advancing our understanding of the Antarctic and Southern Ocean region, as well as its impact on the Earth's climate.

In the area of apprenticeships, the Future of Apprenticeships conference unfolded in Melbourne from February 5-7 and in Auckland from February 8-9, 2023. With over 170 delegates and 32 speakers from six countries, including Switzerland, New Zealand, and Australia, the conference provided a platform for sharing insights on excellence in apprenticeships. Two workshops facilitated active participation, allowing attendees to contribute based on their local perspectives on excellence. A consortium of organizations, including Movetia (the Swiss national agency for mobility and exchange), the Swiss Federal University for Vocational Education and Training, and the Geneva-based Global Apprenticeship Network (GAN), participated. The event was inaugurated by the Swiss Ambassador, Caroline Bichet-Anthamatten. The Swiss apprenticeship model, widely considered a success story, took center stage at the conference, attracting like-minded collaborators, government stakeholders, industry participants, group training organizations, and educational institutions. The event served as a nexus to strengthen relationships and identify potential areas for future collaboration in the apprenticeship domain.

As a subsequent development, in June 2023, Australian Minister for Skills and Training Brendan O'Connor engaged in a high-level exchange with Swiss State Secretary Martina Hirayama during his visit to Switzerland. Discussions focused on vocational education and training, promoting gender diversity in professions, capacity building in clean energy, and strategies to enhance the appeal of vocational education. This meeting underscored the robust and growing cooperation between Switzerland and Australia in the realms of education and research, with Australia emerging as an appealing destination for Swiss apprentices and students. The reopening of Australia's embassy in Bern solidifies the commitment to fortify bilateral relations in the education, research, and innovation sectors.

Future of Apprenticeships conference © Swiss Emnbassy
Minister for Skills and Training, Brendan O'Connor with apprentices © Swiss Embassy
Minister for Skills and Training, Brendan O'Connor and State Secretary, Martina Hirayama © SERI