The pharmaceutical industry employs an above-average number of highly qualified personnel. However, innovations depend not only on the scientific level of individual leading researchers but are also determined to a significant degree by the qualification of the workforce as a whole and thus by investment in the Swiss education system.
In 2016, the Confederation, cantons and communes together spent CHF 37.2 billion on education. This is equivalent to 17.5% of total public spending and 5.6% of Switzerland’s gross domestic product. These figures underline the importance that Switzerland attaches to well-trained skilled workers, who are our most important resource and at the same time the driving force behind economic growth. Switzerland scores well in an international comparison of educational quality, thanks not least to its dual training system. Yet there is potential for improvement since technological change is leading to uncertainty and challenges relating to future job profiles, and digitalisation is changing the skills that are required. Schools and universities must therefore teach more digital skills and interpersonal skills. Vocational training within the dual training system must be made more flexible and modular.
Education, Research and Innovation (ERI)
The policy area of education, research and innovation (ERI) makes a substantial contribution to the well-being of individuals, society and the economy in Switzerland and is therefore accorded high priority. The quality of the Swiss ERI system is also recognised abroad. The Federal Council submits a dispatch on the promotion of education, research and innovation to the federal councillors every four years. In this dispatch, the Federal Council summarises the achievements of the current period and determines the objectives and actions for the new four-year period.
In February 2020, the Federal Council referred the dispatch on promotion of education, research and innovation (ERI) for the period 2021-2024 to Parliament. The following priorities were defined with the overarching objective of “Switzerland remains a leader in education, research and innovation and harnesses the opportunities offered by digitalisation”.
- Vocational training: In concert with the cantons and industry, the Confederation will support the training of practically oriented skilled workers and promote innovative projects that prepare vocational training for digital change and lifelong learning.
- Continuing education: In concert with the cantons, the Confederation will promote offerings particularly in the areas of language, information and communication technology and everyday mathematics.
- Digital change: The ERI policy of the Confederation will support stakeholders in all areas in coping with and shaping the process of digital change and will support the expansion of digital skills and research capacities in strategic areas such as AI and cybersecurity.
- Universities: The Confederation will mandate the institutions in the ETH Domain to play a central role as innovation drivers on the basis of their excellence in teaching and research and through knowledge transfer.
- Promotion of research and innovation: In concert with the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) and Innosuisse, the Confederation will fund efficient support agencies committed to competition.
The ERI policy will contribute to sustainable development and equality of opportunity in all areas. In this way, it will support the implementation of Agenda 2030 and as a result the development of the Sustainable Development Strategy 2030.
Collaborative partnership between the public and private sectors (public-private partnership, PPP) plays a significant role in the ERI system. Dual vocational training, for example, depends to a large degree on the willingness of companies to train apprentices and to contribute, in some instances substantially, to the costs involved. PPP also occurs in the university and research settings and in the promotion of upcoming young talents.
Free movement of people and access to workers from third countries
A flexible labour market is one of Switzerland’s strengths, while access to foreign skilled workers and specialists is not. For this reason, one of the central requirements in coming years will be to safeguard the free movement of people.