The training programme for farmworkers imparts broad skills to academically weak learners. What chances do they have on the labour market today and in the future and how do they succeed in making the transition to further training?
Despite a sufficient number of apprenticeship places, the transition to vocational education and training is more difficult for young people with academic or social disadvantages. The two-year basic training programme for farmworkers culminating in a Federal Certificate of Vocational Education and Training (EBA) enables such trainees to access the labour market. This training has a special feature: As a rule, the trainees live with the families of the farm managers and are integrated into everyday family life.
Impeded entry to the programme
All farmworker trainees in the Canton of Bern were surveyed both before they qualified in May 2019 and one year later. The study investigated their previous education and training, and obtained initial assessments of career entry or the start of further training.
It was found that the trainees had had impeded entry to the programme: Only 15% of the trainees had entered directly, 63% had first started training as a farmer with a Federal Diploma of Vocational Education and Training (EFZ), the others had attended various bridging programmes. The majority of trainees rated their training as ‘excellent’, they had acquired broad skills and were very satisfied with the farm-based training and school-based education. Three quarters of the trainees also wanted to work in this occupational field in the future.
Shortly before completion of the two-year programme in May 2019, 30% of the trainees had an employment contract, just under half intended to proceed to qualification as a farmer EFZ and already had an apprenticeship contract, and 20% lacked a continuation solution.
High rate of occupation for farmworkers
One year later, 95% of the respondents were either in employment or training. More than half were training to become EFZ-qualified farmers. Of those young people who had entered the labour market directly (40% of the total), half were working in agriculture and half in another sector (construction or wood, assembly).
Educational reform endangers the success model of this VET programme
Although this programme is currently still a model of success, this could change as a result of possible VET reforms within the framework of AP22+, the development of the post-2022 Swiss agricultural policy. Under AP22+, the requirements for direct-payment entitlement will probably be increased: In future, farm managers will have to have a Federal Diploma of Vocational Education and Training (EFZ) as a farmer and complete three modules in business administration. The EBA qualification as a farmworker would no longer be sufficient to be eligible for direct payments.
- The EBA programme for farmworkers is currently a success model. Holders of this qualification have good chances on the labour market, both in agriculture and other sectors.
- A significant number of farmworkers work on their parents’ farms and aim to run their own farm. This is where stricter rules under AP22+ on the granting of direct payments would have an impact.
- The starting salaries are low compared with other two-year basic vocational programmes. However, reliable statements on the salary level can only be made by means of a nationwide survey.
- Farmworkers who proceed to the three-year vocational programme have academic deficits. Only a good third manage to qualify as farmers with the EFZ diploma in the Canton of Bern.