Swedish initial vocational education and training (VET) has mainly been school-based since the 1940s. Since 1970, VET programmes have been integrated into upper secondary school (16+). VET is and has been an area with tensions, in Sweden these tensions are related firstly to the public picture of who these students (‘practical’ individuals, less motivated for schooling), quite often also associated with special needs (Hill 2007). Thus a dominating idea in Sweden for several decades has been (Lundahl 1989, 1998; Arnesen & Lundahl 2006) that less should be demanded of them in terms of general subjects (Berglund & Lindberg 2009; Korp 2012). Similar conceptions are found also other countries (cf. Agodini et al. 2004). For instance, Swedish future-oriented strategies in policy documents (SOU 2008:27) display such conceptions. Simultaneously, the skilled craftsman is a (public and political) romantic ideal in today’s society. Furthermore, it is expected that vocational education contribute with basics for a skilled workforce to Swedish companies for competition on a (contemporary as well as future) global market. How and when the transformation of VET students, considered less motivated and cognitively less able, to the skilled craftspeople/car-mechanics or waiters takes place therefore seems a magic process. We raise questions like: What kind of vocational knowing is made available for VET students in order for making it possible for them to become skilled representatives of their vocations? What situations, assignments and experiences contribute to such future-oriented images as well as to vocational knowing? What characterizes the kind of vocational knowing that is assumed to qualify for both contemporary and future work? The basis for this paper is a review of mainly Swedish research related to policy and practice; complemented with international studies in order to contrast the Swedish case. The review forms the basis of a research project with participators from two fields of research: VET and work-based learning. Findings from the review show contradictory political motives for upper secondary (initial) VET, uncontested ideas of VET as social practice. Main findings show that there are few Swedish practice-based studies and tensions also related to what students/which programmes national and local investments that confirm or deny these ideas. International studies, although based in various organisations of initial VET, indicate similar patterns.