Journal of Business Economics

, Volume 89, Issue 5, pp 569–597 | Cite as

How firms’ participation in apprenticeship training fosters knowledge diffusion and innovation

  • Christian Rupietta
  • Uschi Backes-GellnerEmail author
Original Paper


Previous studies typically relate apprenticeship training or more generally ‘Vocational Education and Training’ (VET) to training that is highly specific and that uses well-established technologies. Accordingly, apprenticeship training is typically not expected to have positive effects on innovation. In contrast, we argue in this paper that the type of dual apprenticeship training seen in Switzerland (or Germany and Austria) does create positive innovation effects due to the VET system’s built-in and institutionalized curriculum development and updating processes. These processes ensure that firms participating in apprenticeship training gain access to knowledge that is close to the innovation frontier and that ultimately fosters innovation. We provide theoretical explanations of how this knowledge diffusion works and how it can help to generate innovation. We use the Swiss VET system as one example and derive hypotheses about the relationship between firms’ participation in apprenticeship training and their innovation outcomes. Empirical analyses support our hypotheses. In a VET system with a built-in curriculum-updating process like the one in Switzerland (or Germany), firms participating in apprenticeship training have higher innovation outcomes than do non-participating firms.


Apprenticeship training Vocational education Knowledge diffusion Innovation 

JEL Classification

I20 O31 



We thank John Addison, Simone Balestra, Bernd Fitzenberger, Simon Janssen, Edward Lazear, Johannes Meuer, Kira Rupietta, Paul Ryan, Rainer Winkelmann and the participants of the annual meetings of the Canadian Economics Association, Swiss Society for Economics and Statistics, the Bildungsökonomischen Ausschusses im Verein für Socialpolitik, the Spring Meeting of Young Economists, the Colloquium on Personnel Economics, the DRUID Society Conference and the research seminars at the University of Zurich for helpful comments and suggestions. We acknowledge and thank Natalia Abrosimova and Jan Hagen for research assistance and Natalie Reid for editorial support. Furthermore we thank the Swiss Economic Institute (KOF) for data provision.


This study is partly funded by the Swiss State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation through its Leading House on the Economics of Education, Firm Behaviour and Training Policies.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Schumpeter School of Business and EconomicsUniversity of WuppertalWuppertalGermany
  2. 2.Department of Business AdministrationUniversity of ZurichZurichSwitzerland
  3. 3.Jackstädt Center of Entrepreneurship and Innovation ResearchUniversity of WuppertalWuppertalGermany

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