Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2803

Article | Open Access

Does Vocational Education Give a Labour Market Advantage over the Whole Career? A Comparison of the United Kingdom and Switzerland

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Abstract:  Research suggests that vocational education and training (VET) tends to reduce youth unemployment by providing them with specific skills, thus smoothing the transition from education to work. However, we still know relatively little aboutwhether vocational education provides higher employment rate and wages over the entire working trajectory than holders of lower education; after several years of experience, both groups may indeed have similar skills and thus similar situations in the labour market. We compare the situation in the United Kingdom and Switzerland, two countries that share a tradition of vocational education but differ in the specificity and standardisation of their VET system. Creating a pseudo-cohort with repeated rounds of the United Kingdom and Swiss labour force surveys, we use regression models and compare the employment rate and hourly wage of our two groups of interest: individuals with vocational education at the upper secondary level and individuals with no more than compulsory education. We find that VET graduates fare better in terms of both employment and wages over the whole career. This advantage is larger for women than men and, contrary to our hypothesis, larger in the United Kingdom than in Switzerland with respect to employment prospects.

Keywords:  apprenticeship; earnings; employment; life course; Switzerland; United Kingdom; vocational education and training


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© Maïlys Korber. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.