Thanks for replying to my post!
You are right, the system we have here is not to be found in too many countries.
I would have to do some research, though, to find out how common apprenticeships are in other European countries, like Germany or Austria.
Maybe I forgot to mention that the 19th century, with booming Industrial production in my country, for instance in the field of textiles, colours, chemistry and, which was huge in my home town too, locomotives, steem engines and diesel motors for ships.
So, to have a well educated workforce was crutial for the era of the industrialisation. I guess this really layed the ground for all that followed later on. The fact that we had no other possibilities, like minerals, oil, woods and neither agricultural products to exploit and export made it necessary to develop other possibilities. It is not to forget that Switzerland has been a rather poor country for centuries, with little influence or other means of power.
The professional associations did not only have a great influence on the professional education system but unions were important too. After WW I we had a tough crisis here. Everyone was exhausted, after years of little food and then thousands and thousands died of the Spanish flue, especially young adults. The workers had no money and no food. So they started to protest. The military came to help and defend and people died.
We were lucky that decent people on both sides started to discuss the problems. And as a result after a few years, both sides, employers and unions agreed on a system which we call here "peace of work". Which means: in bigger firms and factories they installed a board with the bosses and the representatives of the workforce at the table. Before going on strike, this board tried to find better solutions so as not to stop the production.
Initiatives led to other improvements for the workforce, like a limit to the weekly hours they had to work. So, step by step a better situation could be established - in the interest of both sides.
It worked fine and well as long as there was a high demand on workers. It sort of failed so, when firms closed down for on or the other reason. So my neighbour lost his job by the age of 62 in a print shop with 400 workers about 10 years ago, because the factory could not compete anymore - so the management told them. That might be right, but in his view, the bosses had failed to invest in new machinery some years back. He was a keen representative of the union in his firm - and therefore very disappointed. But nothing could be done about it.
But in other cases, firms in my home town were taken over by the management, and successfully so. Some of them were later sold to foreign owners - happens too...
In the years 1970 - 1990 many investors said that it is no use to produce goods, machinery and the like anymore in Switzerland - but: this turned out not to be true, luckily. The products have changed, though. It is less mass production but more specialisation. The mechanical industries were a driving factor in all that for one and a half century now - and are still around. I hope this will stay that way...