WOSTEP approves CWE plans to revise watch training

A plan to attract more American young people to watchmaking by modifying its widely used training program was approved Feb. 28 by the board of the Watchmakers of Switzerland Training and Education Program (WOSTEP), the training center of the Swiss watch industry.

The proposal comes from the U.S. watch and jewelry industries’ ”Coalition for Watchmaker Education” (CWE), which gave the go-ahead to the idea on Feb. 22. It was submitted to WOSTEP on CWE’s behalf by the U.S. office of the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry (FH).

The proposal calls for dividing WOSTEP’s two-year, 3,000-hour course (the internationally accepted starboard for watch training) into two parts-basic and advanced-for U.S. students. This would make watch training more attractive to students who don’t need the entire 3,000-hour course, say supporters, while providing U.S. jewelers, repair shops and others with a standard for judging the skills of job applicants. Specific details of the revision must be worked out, but ”basically, WOSTEP is going to work with us [the CWE] on this,” says Peter Laetsch, president of FH (USA) and chairman of CWE’s education committee.

”We’re not changing the program’s training requirements or content,” he stressed, ”just how it is presented in the U.S.,” where vocational training differs from Europe, which emphasizes teen-age vocational training, apprentices, and journeymen.

Reportedly, WOSTEP itself several years ago considered a two-tier program. Approval of the U.S. propsoal may lead it to ”review that again and see if its fits with what we requested,” says Laetsch.

Aiding WOSTEP’ redesign of its program will be input from a planned April meeting in New Orleans between officials of the 11 U.S. watchmaking schools and the CWE. ”We will relay all the information they [Wopstep] need to recreate a program that confirms to the U.S. market,” says Latesch. That meeting will deal how to attract more students and promote watchmaking, and the components of a successful U.S. watch training program.

The CWE was formed in November 2000 by U.S. watch and jewelry leaders to address the alarming shortage of qualified U.S. watchmakers, following a JCK report. (See, ‘Where Have All the Watchmakers Gone,’ JCK, October 2000). It includes the American Watch Association (AWA), the American Watchmakers-Clockmakers Institute (AWI), the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry (FH); Jewelers of America (JA), and leading watch firms such as Rolex, Piaget, Patek Philippe, and the Swatch Group