CSL Behring Helps Fuel Switzerland’s Fertile Innovation Ecosystem

Known for our life-changing biotherapies, CSL Behring is one of a number of companies that benefit from the Swiss model of vocational education.

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By Jasmin Joller

December 22, 2016

At our manufacturing facility in Bern, we’ve been receiving visits from dignitaries and business heads from around the world such as U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez, President of Poland Andrzej Duda, Microsoft President Brad Smith and the European-Australian Business Council.

Usually we attract attention because of our world-class biotherapies, or because we’ve been recognized as an employer of choice in Switzerland. Now we’re attracting attention because it’s widely recognized that Switzerland has set quite a standard for occupational learning programs, and CSL Behring is a shining example of that standard.

What makes CSL Behring and our industry particularly interesting for individuals choosing a career? 

What makes CSL Behring and our industry particularly interesting for individuals choosing a career? Biotherapeutics is a fast-growing field with huge potential and our core business, protein therapeutics, as well as that of our sister company Seqirus, influenza vaccines and other biologics, are already among the field’s global leaders.

This is especially important as we grow our business to meet the growing demand for our therapies. Today we have more than 14,000 employees who provide our therapies to people in more than 60 countries. Our occupational learning program is helping to ensure we have the human capital necessary to meet global demand.

We also appreciate the interconnectedness of our economy. While we want to retain skilled apprentices in full-time positions, we not only train and educate qualified young professionals for our own company, but to contribute to the competitiveness of the Swiss labor market working in other businesses. On the other hand, we also hire qualified employees that apprenticed in other companies, so it’s a give and take.

Of course, we like to think we’ve gone a step further in perfecting the Swiss model of vocational education.

Of course, we like to think we’ve gone a step further in perfecting the Swiss model of vocational education, which features a dual-track approach to learning – practical in nature on the one hand, theoretical on the other. It comprises in-house practical training at a host company such as CSL Behring where apprentices acquire on-the-job knowledge and the skills needed in their future occupation.

They are looked after by trained instructors who guide them throughout their apprenticeship and practical exam preparations. One or two days per week the young apprentices attend a vocational school and/or take specialized courses where they develop technical, methodological and social skills, and become familiar with theoretical and general principles needed in their jobs.

So, what makes our apprenticeship program at CSL Behring special? We provide our apprentices with opportunities that include the following:
• social integration in workshops, staff events and the same fringe benefits as other employees
• international exchange with colleagues around the world
• training in GMP Standards
• meaningfulness and applicability/ practical relevance of their work
• exchange between apprentices in their day-to-day routine and exchange programs with apprentices in our Marburg, Germany facility

BioLaborant_Fabienne Wenger

An apprenticeship lasts three to four years and the apprentices obtain a federal Vocational Education and Training (VET) diploma after successful completion. The Swiss VET was developed in the 19th Century to facilitate the recruitment of qualified workers, and evolved the concept of using multiple work environments to emphasize and progress the value of work-based training.

Today, about 70% of all teenagers in Switzerland choose vocational education and apply for an apprenticeship after mandatory school. The number and type of apprenticeship positions are linked not only to the demand for specific skill sets at the host company, but are centered around the competencies that are in demand on the labor market as a whole. The Swiss Model has become a pillar of the country’s economy.

This connective model of learning allows for a smooth and seamless transition from student to apprentice.

This connective model of learning allows for a smooth and seamless transition from student to apprentice, which is further enhanced by trial days, where students who are still completing their compulsory education visit a company for a couple days and learn about skilled occupations in which they’re interested. More often than not, it is these trial days that tip the scales when applying for an apprenticeship after completion of compulsory school.

Such was the case for Jason Asempah, a logistics apprentice in his second year at CSL Behring in Bern. “During my trial days at CSL Behring, I liked the tasks and the team so much that I was eager to work here. I put an extra effort into my application – and it worked out just perfect!”

At CSL Behring Bern we have been successfully implementing this vocational education model for more than 10 years. Today, we are training 47 apprentices in nine different occupations.  They gain a broad overview by transitioning through different departments within the company. But it is not only for their professional career that the young employees and future subject matter experts can benefit during their apprenticeships.

I recommend an apprenticeship at CSL Behring to everyone who not only wants to grow professionally, but also personally.                                                                                       

“Starting an apprenticeship was an important step in my career as an IT specialist,” said Riccardo Schenoni. He is in his third year as an IT apprentice. “I’m learning a lot and meeting new friends. It was also an important step towards adulthood. I recommend an apprenticeship at CSL Behring to everyone who not only wants to grow professionally, but also personally.”

A similar apprenticeship model is now being explored at our Kankakee, Illinois manufacturing site in the U.S., which goes to show that Switzerland’s innovative vocational education program may even serve as a model worldwide.

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Jasmin Joller is a Digital Specialist in CSL Behring Bern’s Communications Group.

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