Article written by Julie Pignier
Our first steps as a training company!
What is exactly an apprenticeship?
A pillar of the Swiss educational system, apprenticeship is the most widespread training after compulsory school and enjoys an excellent reputation. Young people choose a profession from among the 250 or so options available and then look for an apprenticeship position in the chosen sector. The apprenticeship can be a combination of in-company and in-school training or 100% in-school training.
Initial vocational training leads either to a Federal Certificate of Competence (CFC – in 3 or 4 years) or to a Federal Certificate of Vocational Training (AFP, in 2 years). The training consists of a theoretical and a practical part. The aim is that the apprentices develop the knowledge and skills necessary to perform a trade.
How to start the process?
The first step in this beautiful adventure is for an employee of a company to become an apprentice trainer. This person is responsible for passing on the know-how, supervising and accompanying the apprentice throughout his or her journey to becoming a professional.
To train an apprentice, it is therefore necessary to be experienced (at least 2 years of professional experience is required) and qualified in the field (i.e. have a diploma in the profession in which you wish to train the apprentice) and to have a trainer’s certificate.
It is necessary to consult the federal ordinances for each profession to verify the exact qualifications and length of experience required.
At Synergix, our senior accountant Saman Abdulaziz has expressed interest in becoming an apprentice trainer. Saman is experienced and qualified in his profession as an accountant; he has about 8 years of professional experience in the industry and holds a federal certificate in accounting.
Before starting this project, Saman did not have a trainer’s certificate and Synergix was not yet a company authorized to train apprentices by the canton of Geneva.
How to obtain an apprentice trainer certificate and authorization for the company?
The first step is to check whether the company is authorized to train apprentices by the Canton in which it is located.
As we had never been in an apprenticeship situation, Synergix was not yet a company authorized to train apprentices by the Canton of Geneva.
We therefore filled out an online application for authorization to train apprentices with the Canton of Geneva.
In this application, we provided Synergix’s contact information, the contact person for the application, the person designated to monitor the apprentice and the qualified people in-house.
A few weeks later, we received an apprenticeship commissioner in the office, who came to meet with us, discuss with management and Saman and tour the facility. We received the positive decision shortly after this physical visit.
In parallel to this process, Saman started a training to become an apprentice trainer. This training consisted of about 40 hours of classes to be taken at his own convenience.
What does the training to become an apprentice trainer consist of?
During this training, the theoretical aspects of the training were worked on:
- The obligations of the employers but also of the apprentices are defined,
- The role of the trainer and the training company,
- Information related to apprenticeship contracts,
- Recruitment procedures (the profile that the company is looking for, how to conduct a job interview),
- Welcoming the apprentice to the company,
- How to communicate with the apprentice and the trainer’s attitude,
- Conflict management with the apprentice, but also with the employees,
- How to train the apprentice efficiently, by setting objectives,
- Which skills to work on (methodology, personal, social or professional)
- Planning, evaluation and follow-up of the training.
How long does this process take?
We wanted to be ready for the start of the school year on August 30, 2021. Between Saman’s training and the authorization to receive from the Canton, we think it is necessary to allow about 3 months.
What do we do once the designated person is certified as a trainer and the company is authorized by the Canton?
Then you have to publish an ad on the bourse genevoise des places d’apprentissage on the website www.orientation.ch. We have received many applications from young people between 15 and 25 years old. We decided to contact some of them in order to create a first exchange, to understand their interests, their desires and to be able to introduce each other. A meeting followed in order to continue the conversation and to see if the feeling is mutual and the key values shared. It was important for us to take our time, to be able to discuss with the young people to identify their desires and to make them feel good about working with us, with the team. Indeed, an apprenticeship program lasts 3 years and is therefore a long-term project, so it is important that each stakeholder is happy with their decision.
How was the search for our apprentice going?
As a fiduciary specializing in the outsourcing of accounting and HR management, it is obvious that our future apprentice should be interested in this branch. The existing option concerning our profession and the search for an apprentice is “commercial employee (fiduciary / real estate)”. We were careful to be as clear and transparent as possible when explaining our profession and our activities. We explained what our accounting and human resources teams do on a daily basis and how we work. We also emphasized the fact that we are fans of new technologies and have implemented advanced technological systems. We wanted an apprentice who was curious and interested in this aspect.
In terms of applications and interviews, it is clearly an immediate step into working life for these young people! We discovered quite varied CVs and cover letters! For example, a young student applied to us explaining that he wanted to specialize in real estate. We explained to him that we are a fiduciary and not a real estate company!
Regarding age, as mentioned above, we received applications from young people between 15 and 25 years old, sometimes even older. The age was not important in our project, but it must be kept in mind that if the apprentice is a minor, the company is legally responsible for his/her presence at the office as well as at school. Thus, if the minor apprentice does not go to school, the training company must make the link with the school and the parents.
“I am delighted to have become an apprentice trainer and to be able to train our apprentice Miriam on a daily basis”Saman Abdulaziz, senior accountant
What about signing the apprenticeship contract?
If the apprentice is a minor, and in our case she is, it is necessary that at least one parent accompany the young person during the signing of the contract in the company. As our apprentice is 17 years old, we wanted to meet the parents in order to discuss with them.
Once the apprenticeship contract is signed, the young person can register at the school that the OFPC will designate for him or her, depending on where he or she lives and on the number of places available. The company must then submit three copies of the apprenticeship contract to the Office for Orientation, Vocational Training and Continuing Education (OFPC), which will validate the contract by signing it. In order to protect the interests of the apprentice, but also of the company, the OFPC validates the apprenticeship contracts.
More details about the apprentice’s salary
The amount varies depending on the trade and the company. The apprentice receives a salary for the work done in the company. As the apprentice masters his or her future trade better and better, the salary increases over the years. To find out the amount of the salary generally paid, you should check the collective bargaining agreements (CCT) in force or the valid recommendations. The law does not set a minimum wage, but training companies generally follow the recommendations published by professional organizations.
The apprentice is responsible for the costs of transportation, meals, teaching manuals, notebooks, binders and other technical documents. However, the costs of inter-company courses are to be paid by the employer. These courses are compulsory and form an integral part of the apprenticeship.
For the very first apprenticeship, the training company can benefit from financial aid from the Canton, equivalent to 3 months of the apprentice’s salary, under certain conditions (such as a maximum number of 9 employees for an apprentice). If your team is composed of 11 members for one apprentice, this financial aid is not granted.
In case of illness, the apprentice will be paid the following salary
- The equivalent of 3 weeks during the first year of apprenticeship,
- A reasonable period of time during the second, third and fourth year of the apprenticeship. The Labour Court considers the reasonable period of time to be 2 months.
How to handle an apprenticeship contract with regard to social security contributions?
People who are gainfully employed are required to pay contributions from January 1st of the year in which they turn 18. These contributions include old age and survivors’ insurance (AVS), disability insurance (AI), loss of earnings allowance (APG), unemployment insurance (AC) and contributions to a daily allowance insurance in case of illness or contributions for accident insurance. Depending on the pension model chosen by the employer, the apprentice could potentially be insured for the risks of disability and death as of January 1 of the year in which he/she turns 18.
What is the apprentice’s attendance schedule like at the company and at school?
Our apprentice works 3 days a week at the company and 2 days at the school. The days are set by the training school. The apprentice also has a certain number of training weeks to complete at school during the year. For example, our apprentice spent 2 weeks in a row at school in September. In addition, the apprentice is obliged to follow “inter-company” courses that link the theoretical aspects, worked on at school, and the practical aspects, acquired in the company.
- A minimum of 5 weeks of vacation per year of apprenticeship is granted to trainees up to the age of 20,
- A minimum of 4 weeks vacation per year of training for trainees over 20 years of age.
For the very first apprenticeship, the Canton grants flexibility of 30 days after the start of the school year to the training company, in case it has not yet found an apprentice. In practice, this year the school year started on August 30, so we had until September 30 to hire an apprentice.
What about the follow-up throughout the apprenticeship?
The apprentice’s trainer is obviously the reference person in the company and this is a major challenge, probably even more so in the first few years. The Office for Orientation, Vocational Training and Continuing Education (OFPC) assigns an apprenticeship commissioner who will collaborate with the training company in the supervision of the apprenticeship and who will be responsible for ensuring the quality of the practical vocational training provided to the apprentice.
The commissioner will intervene in all matters related to the professional practice provided within the company in order to promote the success of the apprentice. The commissioner provides support when needed and makes contact with the company and the apprentice at the workplace.
The OFPC also assigns a training advisor, who intervenes in all matters related to the apprentice’s vocational training. The company can contact him/her if it needs information or advice about the apprenticeship.
What happens if the apprentice or the company wishes to terminate the apprenticeship contract?
We cannot testify to this situation, but after information has been obtained, both the apprentice and the company can terminate the contract by mutual agreement or for just cause (serious misconduct, repeated absences etc.).
During the trial period, the contract can be terminated by either party by giving 7 days’ notice.
The party wishing to terminate the contract before the date defined in the contract must do so in writing and send a copy to the OFPC. The situation must also be justified (reasons, warning letters, minutes of visits, etc.) and related steps must have been taken in order to find a solution (e.g. meeting with the parents, with the apprenticeship commissioner).