Quality of vocational education and training, role tensions and consequences for apprentices

 Tug war, man vs woman pulling rope in opposite directions unequally, uneven. copy space
The thesis project focuses on the understanding of quality in dual-track, upper-secondary-level vocational education and training (VET) in the French-speaking region of Switzerland and the consequences of this quality for the stakeholders ’in the field’, in particular apprentices.

This doctoral thesis is part of the project funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) entitled “How is the quality of upper-secondary-level VET understood by its players, and how does it influence learner commitment? An analysis of the various learning locations and the development of a scientifically-based assessment tool.”

As part of their professional socialisation during their apprenticeships in training companies, apprentices can face various forms of role tensions related to an ambiguous status. For example, apprentices are considered as learners to some extent, while at other times during their apprenticeship, they revert to the role of employees.

These role tensions has been identified as characterising perceived quality in upper-secondary-level VET, which is why the notion of quality will be explored in relation to the role tensions of apprentices in dual-track VET.

The consequences related to the perceived quality – such as satisfaction and educational and professional commitment – will also be investigated in conjunction with role tensions. Accordingly, the experiences and perceptions of apprentices in their training company will be further emphasized, without overlooking school experiences, which also constitute part of the reality of dual-track, upper-secondary-level VET.

The aim is to show to what extent and how these role tensions contribute to characterising perceived quality in dual-track VET and its consequences, particularly in terms of apprentices’ satisfaction and commitment.

Thesis supervisors:


The theoretical framework will primarily be based on the work psychology and educational sciences approaches. The project focuses on dual-track, upper-secondary-level VET in the French-speaking region of Switzerland in four occupational fields: construction, hair and beauty, retail and commercial employee. The use of mixed methods is favoured in this thesis project: focus group discussions – held amongst apprentices, vocational school teachers and in-company trainers – were thematically analysed. Hence,the resulting themes formed part of a questionnaire submitted to apprentices, the results of which have been analysed numerically. Longitudinal analysis will also be conducted with a second administration of the questionnaire planned.

In progress
1.7.2020 to 31.1.2022
Project manager: 

Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF)