National Apprenticeship Week in Washington DC
On 14 November 2022, the Embassies of Switzerland and Austria in the United States celebrated the 8th United States National Apprenticeship Week with a joint event focusing on Women in Apprenticeship. Currently, women fill 14% of apprenticeship positions in the USA, compared with 48% in Switzerland and 32% in Austria. The event attracted 100 Washingtonians comprising business and education representatives to the Embassy, where the goal was to promote the inclusion of women in all industries, mainly through the path of dual education training. The panelists were five young women and their respective Swiss and Austrian companies operating in the United States. The youth and inclusive composition of the panel were particularly well received in the room and during the following days on social media. After opening remarks by the Swiss and Austrian Embassies, the Foreign Minister of Liechtenstein provided keynote remarks, followed by an introduction to the history, policy and inclusion of women in Vocational Education and Training (VET). The apprentices shared their experiences, motivation and interest in applying for apprenticeships. The mentors provided concrete tools and lessons learnt for successful program implementation. Several Swiss companies have set up apprenticeship programs at their U.S. branches, paving the way for the development and implementation of this model of education inspired by Switzerland. Apprenticeship programs have attracted widespread interest not only from U.S. companies but also from U.S. federal and state agencies, researchers, educational institutions and workforce development offices.
With this in mind, a second event was organized for decision-makers at the Russell Senate building on 15 November 2022. This Congressional Briefing gathered more than 50 staffers during their lunch break and opened with an address by Colorado Senator John Hickenlooper. The apprentices’ inspiring contributions also found great resonance on the Hill and were followed with interest by leaders from both the private and political sectors. A direct outcome of both National Apprenticeship events is the organization of a state-level delegation from Colorado to Switzerland on the topic of Youth Apprenticeship. The Embassy will help co-design the program of this delegation to Switzerland set for May 2023.