US delegation of business leaders visit the Bühler Apprentice Academy

Indiana coalition seeks to grow youth apprenticeship

Bühler Group CEO, Stefan Scheiber with Claire Fiddian-Green, president and CEO of the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation, who led the delegation’s visit to Swiss advanced manufacturing companies. 

A delegation of around 40 business leaders from the CEMETS iLab Indiana coalition (Center on Economics and Management of Education and Training Systems implementation lab) visited the Bühler Apprentice Academy in Switzerland on 18 June to gain insights into how to scale youth apprenticeships across Indiana’s advanced manufacturing industry. The coalition aims to develop a statewide modern youth apprenticeship system to address the state’s growing workforce crisis. During their visit, the delegates learned about Bühler’s longstanding apprenticeship program in Switzerland and how the company has expanded this vocational training model to its sites in the United States, South America, India, and South Africa, along with several countries across Europe

Business leaders from the manufacturing sector in Indianapolis spent the afternoon meeting Bühler Group CEO Stefan Scheiber, chief human resources officer Irene Mark-Eisenring, head of apprenticeship Andreas Bischof, as well as several current apprentices at the Bühler Apprentice Academy. They also toured the Bühler Energy Center (BEC), a hub focused on revolutionizing employee well-being and professional development that facilitates state-of-the-art apprenticeship training for automation technicians, plant and apparatus engineers, polymechanics, design engineers, commercial apprentices, computer scientists, more.

Replicating key functions of the Swiss system in Indiana
The goal of CEMETS iLab Indiana is to ensure that by 2034, every student and adult learner in Indiana has access to high-quality education and training options. Their current visit to Switzerland focused on the advanced manufacturing sector as Indiana has the highest share of manufacturing employment of all US states.

CEMETS iLab Indiana is supported by over 100 leaders. It collaborates with the Indiana-based Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation, Ascend Indiana, and CEMETS (Center on Economics and Management of Education and Training Systems) at ETH Zurich, Switzerland. Together, these organizations aim to establish a robust apprenticeship system in Indiana to address the state’s talent shortages and improve economic outcomes.
“Indiana has the highest share of manufacturing employment of all US states, and the industry is facing especially challenging current and projected workforce shortages,” said Claire Fiddian-Green, president and CEO of the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation, who led the delegation. “Bühler was recommended to us for its excellent reputation as a manufacturing company that offers training within the Swiss Dual Vocational Education & Training (VET) System.”

Indiana began piloting youth apprenticeship programs modeled after the Swiss dual vocational education and training system in 2019 and has seen some early successes. “Most of our state’s students enter the labor market without a university credential, or the competencies employers seek. It’s clear that the academic-only pathway is only serving a portion of Indiana’s young people, and we need to develop an additional, high-quality education and training pathway to serve the needs of all of our learners,” said Green. “The Swiss system is considered the gold standard globally. If we are successful in our efforts to scale this program, we will be able to provide an alternative education and training pathway that successfully prepares young people for careers and better meets the needs of employers and our labor market.”

Win-win for workers and companies

Since 1915, Bühler has been committed to providing young apprentices with career opportunities. In 2023, Bühler trained 544 apprentices globally, with 293 trained in Switzerland alone. The apprenticeships cover 10 different vocational fields and are based on the Swiss dual-vocational model, which combines practical and academic training.

“It was a pleasure to host the Indiana delegation and share insights about our vocational training program, which prepares young adults for the workforce and enables Bühler to continuously renew itself,” said Mark-Eisenring. “Training and continuing education are a firm part of our strategy and our apprentices have been central to our success for over 100 years. As the demands made on employees in this increasingly dynamic world increase, we aim to develop and expand our training program to prepare our apprentices for the professional world of tomorrow and beyond.”

The Swiss system is a benchmark for many countries, including the US, due to its combination of classroom and work-based training. This dual system has contributed to Switzerland having one of the lowest youth unemployment rates in Europe. This model prepares young people for the labor market and is viewed as a blueprint for VET reforms globally.
“This concept of being paid to learn a trade is highly appealing in the US,” said Bischof. “The Swiss apprenticeship model makes economic sense, providing graduates with the skills they need without the burden of student debt while benefiting companies with a highly skilled workforce.”

“Learning from world-class companies like Bühler about how they train and employ apprentices has been very valuable to our Indiana delegation as we try to scale more apprenticeships in our state. It is clear that apprentices can make valuable contributions to companies and that apprenticeships open pathways for students to have successful career and educational opportunities. We look forward to further implementing our learnings back in Indiana,” said Melina Kennedy, president & CEO of the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership – an organization that brings together top executives from leading local corporations, foundations, and universities to promote the region’s growth and prosperity.

Bühler’s apprenticeship approach has long been recognized by other countries, including the United States. In 2014, Professor – and now First Lady – Jill Biden visited Bühler in Uzwil to see how apprentices are trained. That same year, Bühler Chairman, Calvin Grieder, was invited to the White House as part of a delegation business leaders focused on bringing Swiss apprenticeship programs to their US facilities. Bühler has run Apprenticeship Academies at its Minneapolis, Minnesota location since 2012 and in Raleigh, North Carolina, since 2014. With the opening of the Bühler Energy Center in 2023, Bühler continues to innovate and expand its vocational training efforts, contributing significantly to workforce development in Switzerland and beyond.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here