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I recently went to the Cité des Metiers -translated as City of Trades- at palexpo in Geneva. Growing up in the middle of nowhere, I never had the opportunity to visit a career fair so I was impressed. Two things stood out: the quality of the stands designed by students and apprentices; and the number of public schools in Geneva educating these professionals.

My daughter wants to go into the medical field so we immediately stopped at the HUG (Hôpital Université de Genève) stand. In a matter of minutes she was dressed in her scrubs, standing next to a real surgeon who directed her throughout the surgery using real equipment.

My son, on the other hand, saw the electrical pole presented by the SIG (Société Industriel Genève). He was equipped with rubber soled shoes, harness and climbing spikes. In no time at all he was up on top ready to install cables.

Other stands included cabinet makers, police, electricians, florists, mechanics and chemists at work.

While visiting the fair, I had a sense that every job in Geneva is a profession. Next to every career represented at the fair was the school one could attend. Furthermore, these schools are public. Personally I believe the upside of public Swiss higher-educational schooling is that tuition is low and the quality upon graduation is high. However, the downsides are strict entrance requirements and high attrition without many second chances.

The University of Geneva has a broad range of specialties earning students their undergraduate degree in three years, masters degree in 1.5-2 years and, from what I hear, tuition is chf 500 per year. I asked a chemistry student what he would do upon finishing his degree. He planned to complete his masters in criminology but explained that one could go on to work in the anti-doping, flavors and fragrance, pharmacy or chemical industries.

Under the industry of nature and environment, we stopped at the agricultural school. Again the tuition is chf 500 p.y. This 3-4 year program earns students the Federal Professional Certificate (CFP) as a landscaper, florists, arborist or agricultural farming specialist.

Other schools included ambulance services, sports, health, automobile, machinery, robotics, hotelier and tourism.

Leaving the fair, two thoughts hit me: What wonderful educational opportunities my children have growing up here and how great to live in a society that values professionalism in all areas of work.

I would be interested to hear your thoughts and experiences either here or in your home countries.

If you or your children are French speaking and would like to learn more about careers and Swiss education, you can visit http://www.citedesmetiers.ch/geneve/.

We are a group of international women living in Geneva, Switzerland.  If you would like to join the AIWC, please visit our website at http://www.aiwcgeneva.org/.

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