On Feb. 28, the board of the Watchmakers of Switzerland Training and Education Program (WOSTEP), the training center for the Swiss watch industry, approved a plan to modify its training program for use in the United States. The new program is designed to attract young Americans to the watchmaking industry.
The proposal came from the watch and jewelry industries’ Coalition for Watchmaker Education (CWE), which gave the go-ahead to the idea at its Feb. 22 meeting, and 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 into two parts—basic and advanced—for U.S. students. Specific details were still being worked out at press time, but “basically, WOSTEP is going to work with us [the Coalition] in doing this,” says Peter Laetsch, president of FH (SA) and chairman of CWE’s education committee. The original WOSTEP course is the internationally accepted standard for watch training.
Keeping requirements. “We’re not changing the program’s training requirements or content,” Laetsch stressed, “just how it is presented in the United States.” American vocational training differs from that of European countries, which emphasize teenage vocational training, apprenticeships, and journeyman positions.
Reportedly, WOSTEP itself several years ago considered a two-tier program. Approval of the U.S. proposal may lead it to “review that again and see if it fits with what we requested,” says Laetsch.
Aiding WOSTEP’s redesign of the program will be input from a planned April meeting in New Orleans between officials of U.S. watchmaking schools and CWE. “We’ll relay all the information [WOSTEP needs] to recreate a program that conforms to the U.S. market,” said Laetsch in March. The agenda for that meeting included such issues as how to attract more students, how to promote watchmaking as a career, and the components of a successful U.S. watch training program.
CWE’s training proposal is based on a review by that group’s education committee of the training programs of the 11 U.S. watch training schools. The proposal calls for all of them to adopt the modified WOSTEP program. Dividing the program into basic and advanced segments, say supporters, would make watch training more attractive to students who don’t want to take the entire 3,000-hour course and would provide U.S. jewelers, repair shops, and others with a standard for judging the skills of job applicants.
Meanwhile, CWE is also working on national watchmaker certification standards, lobbying the government to support watchmaking as a viable career, and developing fact-based materials to inform high-school counselors and students of the opportunities in watchmaking.