GOVPET: Governance in Vocational and Professional Education and Training
Vocational and Professional Education and Training (VPET) systems are attracting increasing attention once again due to their stellar economic performance. Also Switzerland is more and more the destination of “study visits” of foreign observers interested in learning how VPET systems work in real life. However, dual vocational training systems are difficult to maintain and even more difficult to create from scratch. The reasons for these difficulties lie in the collectively organised structure of VPET systems, in which a multitude of firms, intermediary associations and public authorities cooperate in the provision, financing and administration of skill formation. In particular, VPET systems presuppose that private actors agree to voluntarily cooperate at a decentralised (i.e. regional/sectoral) level. While states may be able to adopt laws premised on such cooperation, states typically lack the means to enforce it. The challenge of maintaining decentralised cooperation becomes even more vexing if one considers that states have a strong interest in getting private actors to consider societal goals in decentralised cooperation. However, while private actors might have a clear interest in skilled workers, their interest in providing training to disadvantaged labour market participants is less straightforward. Careful governance strategies are needed in the case of collectively organised training systems. However, the strategies used to maintain decentralised cooperation are not very well understood, not least because most research so far has focused on so-called cooperation dilemmas, i.e. situations in which cooperation fails because private interests are at odds with collective interests. However, in case of VPET systems, decentralised cooperation is working surprisingly well in the collectively organised VPET systems of Austria, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland. Hence, the analysis of these VPET systems provides the unique opportunity to understand why and how private actors maintain cooperation and how states can get these private actors to consider societal interests in their decentralised cooperation.
This Leading House Governance in Vocational and Professional Education and Training (GOVPET) focuses on the governance of VPET systems. More concretely, it focuses on two central research questions that are, however, strongly connected. First, we analyse how decentralised cooperation in skill formation is made possible given the many “neuralgic points of contention” (Busemeyer and Trampusch 2012: 16) and the ever-present threat of cooperation breakdown, and ask what stakeholders can do to get private actors to cooperate. Second, we examine how public policies can get private actors to consider societal goals in decentralised cooperation that are not necessarily in the interest of these private actors using the case of the inclusion of disadvantaged labour market participants in the systems of (initial and continuous) vocational and professional training. We examine these two research questions in eight projects. To answer research question 1, we scrutinise cooperation and conflict in skill formation at the regional and sectoral level. Hence, in contrast to existing research that mainly focuses on the national level, we disaggregate the different layers of cooperation. More concretely, we conduct a fivefold comparative analysis: the analysis of decentralised cooperation in various Swiss regions with a special focus on the role of cantonal authorities (project 1.1); the analysis of decentralised cooperation in various economic sectors in Switzerland with a special focus on the role of professional organisations (project 1.2); the cross-national comparison of decentralised cooperation in regions with similar economic profiles (project 1.3); the cross-national comparison of decentralised cooperation in the same economic sectors (project 1.4); and the cross-national comparison of decentralised cooperation in multi-national firms (project 1.5). To answer research 2, we examine how governments can get private actors to consider societal goals in decentralised cooperation using the case of the inclusion of disadvantaged labour market participants in the system of skill formation. We do so in three projects: Project 2.1 analyses existing tools to promote an inconclusive VPET system in Switzerland and other countries with a collectively organised training system. Project 2.2 examines employers’ recruiting practices and attitudes towards accessibility of the VPET system. Finally, project 2.3 explores targeted programmes (so-called “second chance” training programmes) that aim at providing vocational training to young people who have not managed to obtain a qualification through the standard channels.
Overall, the Leading House promises to generate insights that will help improve our understanding of the strengths, weaknesses and conditions of decentralised cooperation and analyse how the needs of disadvantaged people and the goal of social inclusion are considered in the governance of the VPET system, which is crucial for maintaining a thriving VPET system and for improving social integration. With regard to the further development of the VPET system, the permeability between different systems and the attractiveness of the VPET system are among the most important challenges. The Leading House contributes to solving these challenges.