The Group of Friends of France-Switzerland within the French National Assembly – which brings together members from all parliamentary groups – made a working visit to Switzerland on 18 and 19 June for the purpose of discussing vocational education and training. The Group of Friends was led by its president, MP Marion Lenne, and one of its vice presidents, MP Olga Givernet (La République en Marche, Ain). MPs Brahim Hammouche (Democratic Movement and affiliated group, Moselle) and Pierre-Alain Raphan (La République en Marche, Essonne) completed the ranks.

On the Swiss side, the delegation was comprised of its president, member of the Council of States Liliane Maury Pasquier (PS/GE), its vice president, member of the National Council Céline Amaudruz (UDC/GE), members of the National Council Alice Glauser-Zufferey (UDC/VD), Yves Nidegger (UDC/GE) and Manuel Tornare (PS/GE) and member of the Council of States Olivier Français (PLR/VD).

On 18 June, the delegations held talks with Ambassador Morruzzi of the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI) and with social partners and professional organisations, namely Bruno Weber from Travail suisse and Séverine Favre, head of vocational education and training at the Swiss Watch Industry Employers’ Convention. The French delegation was very surprised to note the effectiveness of the Swiss system of vocational education and training, which gives our country its trademark stability, particularly as regards youth unemployment. The French understood that the key to Swiss vocational education and training was the rapid and dynamic adaptation of VET programmes and training to economic reality and needs, and that the impetus for change emanated from the sector concerned (professional organisation) and not from the Confederation. SERI and Travail suisse noted that the major challenge for Switzerland in the coming years will be vocational education and training for adults, since training and support costs for adult training were very high. Members of the National Council Mr Maire and Mr Roduit, who were invited to attend this meeting in their capacity as members of the National Council Science, Education and Culture Committee, were able to share their valuable expertise in the field, particularly with regard to practices in force in the cantons of Neuchâtel and Valais.

The afternoon of 18 June was devoted to a formal discussion on bilateral and cross-border issues between the two countries. The discussions remained cordial and interesting. The French were informed and reassured about the implementation of the ‘light domestic preference’ system. The Swiss, for their part, asked for updates on the ‘lightening visit’ made by a French delegation to Switzerland in the context of ratification of the framework agreement on cross-border healthcare cooperation with France. Mandated by the Foreign Affairs Committee, of which Ms Lenne is a member, this visit has not been as quick as its name implies as it has been ongoing for the past six months and is expected to continue until September 2018. Nevertheless, according the French delegation, the mission is intended to be reassuring and should lead to the Framework Agreement being ratified soon after it goes through the Senate – it is currently in the National Assembly. Ms Lenne also noted that even though it was an agreement in principle, there was a great deal of mistrust on the French side, in particular of the French regional agencies affected by this agreement, and that a considerable amount of information gathering was currently being done.

On the evening of 18 June, the two delegations were received for a working dinner by Gilles Miserez, Director of the Canton of Geneva Office for vocational and continuing education and training (OFPC), representing Anne Emery-Torracinta, the head of Canton of Geneva Department of Education and Youth. This working dinner was held at the Centre de formation professionnelle services et hôtellerie de Genève (Geneva vocational school for the hotel, restaurant and catering sector).

The day of 19 June was devoted to the visit to the Geneva Haute Horlogerie campus in Meyrin which hosts the l’École des Métiers et Artisans de Haute Horlogerie (school for the art and craftsmanship of fine watchmaking). In its workshops, there are no less than 29 apprentices enrolled in five initial dual-track VET programmes: «APF Opérateur en Horlogerie» (Federal VET Certificate, Watchmaking Operator), «CFC Horloger de production» (Federal VET Diploma, Production Watchmaker), «CFC Mircromécanicien» (Federal VET Diploma, Mmicromechanic), «CFC Graveur» (Federal VET Diploma, Engraver) and «Certificat post-CFC Emailleur» (post-Federal VET Diploma Certification, Enameller). After a briefing on the various types of training provided at the school, parliamentarians were able to visit the workshops and talk with apprentices and workplace trainers. They also noted the large number of women in two of the five types of training observed («CFC Graveur, Certificat post-CFC Emailleur»); a number they found very encouraging. At the end of the morning, the two delegations went to the Hotel Management School of Geneva. The school’s sales director, Claire Zendali, explained the various study programmes and underlined the importance of pathways between dual-track VET programmes at upper-secondary level and study programmes at tertiary-level. Such pathways offer young people the possibility of taking their education and training to higher levels if their aspirations take them in this direction.

The working visit ended with a tribute to Switzerland’s work of remembrance and humanitarian tradition at the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum.