Purpose - The classical form of dual vocational training in Switzerland is on-the-job training combined with theoretical education in a school. In order to be an attractive educational choice for both enterprises and pupils, the apprenticeship model has to be constantly adapted to the demands of the labour market. As a potential model for future apprenticeship training, large firms started to concentrate their apprenticeship training in one or a few sites. More recently, independent external firms have been set up with the express purpose of training apprentices for other companies. This article aims to discuss these new developments. Design/methodology/approach - This article bases its discussion of the developments on the basis of a unique data set comprising more than 2,300 training companies in Switzerland. Findings - The observations reported in this article suggest that training in a training centre is a viable alternative to the usual in-house apprenticeship system where the apprentice is trained within the company. However, training centres will never be an ideal solution for all occupations or for every company. Training centres are primarily worthwhile for investment-intensive occupations where the main objective is to invest in an apprentice's human capital and thus help ensure a steady supply of highly qualified workers. Originality/value - The article presents useful developments in the use of training centres.