Abstract. It is a widely held belief that apprenticeship training represents a net investment for training firms, the cost of which needs to be recouped after the training period. A new firm-level data set for Switzerland reveals large variation in net costs across firms and, remarkably, negative net costs for 60 per cent of all firms. We use these data to estimate the effect of net costs on the number of apprentices hired by a firm. The results show that the costs have a significant impact on the training decision but no significant influence on the number of apprentices, once the firm has decided to train. For policy purposes, these results indicate that subsidies for firms that already train apprentices would not boost the number of available training places.