Inves­t­ing in the future

A successful start

Doing well by the youn­ger gene­ra­tion bene­fits society as a whole. Because the youth are our future. Foun­da­ti­ons and chari­ta­ble orga­ni­sa­ti­ons help young people kick­start their care­ers and support them as they tran­si­tion into the world of work. Some even make this possi­ble in the first place.

Like a month of Christ­ma­ses. Benja­min Brungard still remem­bers that magi­cal moment – the one he now says felt like a month of Christ­ma­ses. Recei­ving that accep­tance made him unspeaka­bly happy. He had worked hard for it. His career path was not a smooth one. After finis­hing school, he began an appren­ti­ce­ship as a chef. But the trai­ning wasn’t for him, and he drop­ped out. He then needed another way into the profes­sio­nal world. 

A combi­ned model: intern­ship and coaching

Joining Jobfac­tory in Basel is desi­gned to be as easy as possi­ble. The majo­rity of young people are refer­red by the autho­ri­ties. No appli­ca­tion is requi­red. ‘The young people just have to turn up. We offer them a job, and they tell us whether it works for them or not,’ says Daniel Bränd­lin, chair of the super­vi­sory board at Jobfac­tory. The offer is available to anyone aged 16 to 25 looking for direc­tion: those who have drop­ped out of an appren­ti­ce­ship, have a crimi­nal record, suffer from mental health problems, or who find them­sel­ves on the last day of school with no idea what to do next. ‘Lots of young people find them­sel­ves in this posi­tion. Some­ti­mes it’s due to a chal­len­ging home life, or a lack of support – there are lots of reasons,’ states Brändlin.

‘The child­ren now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for autho­rity … They contra­dict their parents … cross their legs, and tyran­nise their teachers.’

Socra­tes, 470–399 BCE

He wanted to get to the heart of things by asking ques­ti­ons: Socra­tes. He used this method to chall­enge the public in dialo­gue at the market­place. But he was declared a trou­ble­ma­ker and even­tually senten­ced to death for alle­gedly corrupt­ing the young. He refu­sed the oppor­tu­nity to escape out of respect for democracy.

Those affec­ted often have few pros­pects. They may have had rejec­tions from between 50 and 100 job appli­ca­ti­ons. ‘That’s really hard for young people at the start of their career. They are often at risk of finding them­sel­ves in diffi­cult situa­tions. We also meet a lot of great young people who just never had the support they needed,’ obser­ves Bränd­lin. Jobfac­tory is divi­ded into a joint stock company (AG) and a foun­da­tion. The joint stock company opera­tes busi­nesses in a variety of diffe­rent indus­tries, inclu­ding a warehouse, a restau­rant, a prin­ting press and a join­ery. Stif­tung Job Trai­ning supports young people as they carry out their intern­ships and appren­ti­ce­ships. The instruc­tors give the young people an intro­duc­tion to working in the busi­ness. The foun­da­tion provi­des coaches who offer them support. The Jobfac­tory busi­nesses are desi­gned to offer junior roles for the young people. Three to six new interns start every Monday, and the busi­ness needs to be able to absorb them. There are curr­ently 60 to 70 ‘juni­ors’ on the programme. Every year, 250 young people bene­fit from the Jobfac­tory service. 

But this success is a chall­enge for the busi­nesses, too. ‘Many of the young people don’t stay very long,’ says Paola Gallo, CEO of both the joint stock company and the foun­da­tion. That’s the catch. ‘Every Monday, the employees at the restau­rant need to train new young people, for exam­ple.’ On average, they stay for six months. During this time, next steps are sought with the juni­ors; they find a place at an educa­tio­nal insti­tu­tion or look for an appren­ti­ce­ship. Jobfac­tory itself offers 18 appren­ti­ce­ships in diffe­rent areas. 

Good days and bad days

Before start­ing at Jobfac­tory, Benja­min Brungard thought that working was hard and had to be boring. After drop­ping out of his appren­ti­ce­ship as a chef, he was looking for a fresh start. He heard about Jobfac­tory from his youn­ger brot­her. ‘I thought, why not give it a try,’ recalls Brungard. He went to an infor­ma­tion event. One week later, he star­ted in faci­lity manage­ment. It may not have been his dream job, but he liked the Jobfac­tory concept. After having drop­ped out of his appren­ti­ce­ship, being able to start an intern­ship at Jobfac­tory was a special moment for him. He did not take it for gran­ted that he would find a job. As a junior, he had a coach to support him. ‘I didn’t see the point at the time,’ he now admits. Looking back, howe­ver, he acknow­led­ges that it was inva­luable. He had someone he could turn to when things went wrong. ‘That support was hugely important for me,’ says Brungard. ‘I could turn to my coach and tell him when some­thing wasn’t working for me. It wouldn’t have worked other­wise.’ Talking to his coach allo­wed him to see hims­elf reflec­ted back in a respectful way, which, in turn, helped him to approach things differ­ently. ‘Ever­yone has their good days and bad days,’ says Brungard. ‘I would often go to my coach in a bad mood. When he showed me that I hadn’t unders­tood some­thing the way it was meant, I could usually accept it coming from him. I lear­ned a lot about myself.’

Lost in the dual voca­tio­nal system

Andrea Sanchez’s jour­ney was simi­lar, but took a very diffe­rent course. She came to Switz­er­land at the age of 13 when her parents took a job in Savo­gnin. She star­ted secon­dary school and lear­ned German. But the tran­si­tion period follo­wing her compul­sory schoo­ling wasn’t easy. It wasn’t that she lacked moti­va­tion – on the contrary. She was highly moti­va­ted. But she was unfa­mi­liar with the dual system of voca­tio­nal educa­tion and trai­ning, and with the idea of an appren­ti­ce­ship. The charity Die Chance supported her during her final volun­t­ary year of schoo­ling. ‘I atten­ded a Catho­lic girls’ school in Thusis,’ she recalls. ‘And I had to stay there over­night, because the jour­ney back to Savo­gnin was too far.’ It was a good but chal­len­ging time. Espe­ci­ally because until March, she had no idea what she wanted to do at the end of the school year. A care­ers advi­ser from Die Chance helped her.

The foun­da­tion is active in Eastern Switz­er­land, and provi­des support for young people who have diffi­culty finding a job or an appren­ti­ce­ship due to their acade­mic perfor­mance, their social envi­ron­ment or migrant back­ground. Die Chance is one of the asso­cia­ti­ons and foun­da­ti­ons belon­ging to the Swiss-wide network of the umbrella asso­cia­tion Check Your Chance (you can find an inter­view with the chair of the board of Check Your Chance, Valen­tin Vogt, at the end of this article).

The care­ers advi­ser suggested that Sanchez under­take an appren­ti­ce­ship in indus­trial laun­dry services. ‘He imme­dia­tely reco­g­nised that I like being physi­cally active,’ she says. She agreed to a trial appren­ti­ce­ship. She was new to the profes­sio­nal envi­ron­ment, and she was nervous. 

The idea of a trial appren­ti­ce­ship was also foreign to her, which is why she had never comple­ted one while at school. But she was imme­dia­tely won over. ‘I liked it from the first moment,’ recalls Sanchez. ‘The people, the work itself and, of course, the fact that I was always moving – it all suited me perfectly.’ The tran­si­tion was far less drama­tic than she had feared. She went on to complete an intern­ship and start an apprenticeship.

Succes­sion not dissolution

Daniel Heiz is also aware of just how much the right support at the right moment can achieve. ‘Our advan­tage is that we train young people in advance,’ says Heiz, foun­der and chair of the board of trus­tees of the Schwei­zer Stif­tung für beruf­li­che Jugend­för­de­rung (Swiss foun­da­tion for youth care­ers support). ‘We find out what their strengths are, what they’re good at, and toge­ther we find a profes­sion that suits them. Then we look for an appro­priate trai­ning programme.’ The foun­da­tion is parti­cu­larly active in helping young people who are still at school and strugg­ling to find an appren­ti­ce­ship. It also provi­des support for appren­ti­ces to help prevent people drop­ping out of appren­ti­ce­ships. ‘There is limi­ted public funding available,’ says Heiz. ‘And there is a lot of indi­vi­dual support requi­red, espe­ci­ally in more chal­len­ging cases.’ This is why he crea­ted the foun­da­tion in 2005. He was commit­ted to making a posi­tive diffe­rence for disad­van­ta­ged people by provi­ding youth care­ers support. At the time, there were too few appren­ti­ce­ships available. But as the years went on, the situa­tion chan­ged, and as a wealth of appren­ti­ce­ships became available, Heiz conside­red the goal of his foun­da­tion to have been achie­ved. In 2018, the board of trus­tees plan­ned the disso­lu­tion of the foun­da­tion in 2021. But then coro­na­vi­rus happened. The whole situa­tion chan­ged within a short space of time. The impli­ca­ti­ons for the appren­ti­ce­ship market, and in parti­cu­lar for appren­ti­ces and those looking for appren­ti­ce­ships, remains unknown. So the foun­da­tion is now working on a succes­sion plan in order to keep their support for young people going. Their efforts have paid off, as the figu­res show: 92 percent of the young people they support successfully complete their appren­ti­ce­ship. ‘We are parti­cu­larly deligh­ted every time a young person with a disa­bi­lity comple­tes their appren­ti­ce­ship,’ says Heiz. 

Social entre­pre­neur­ship

Jobfac­tory was also foun­ded in 2000 follo­wing the expe­ri­en­ces of the ’90s and the dearth of appren­ti­ce­ships. It was inspi­red by the demand expres­sed by teachers. Jobfac­tory aims to give guidance to school gradua­tes without an appren­ti­ce­ship, or those who have drop­ped out of school. Initial attempts to support young people in exis­ting SMEs failed. Without a coach, it was diffi­cult to over­come the young people’s chal­lenges. ‘That’s how we arri­ved at the idea of running our own busi­nesses,’ explains Paola Gallo. ‘What’s parti­cu­larly appe­al­ing about the concept is that the busi­nesses are part of the main­stream labour market.’ And the concept works: 80 percent of the juni­ors complete the programme. Of these, 90 percent are able to find a job at another company. ‘We’d ideally like to know what the situa­tion looks like after a year,’ says Gallo. But they don’t have data on this. The young people are in a normal working envi­ron­ment by then. ‘To promote the long-term sustaina­bi­lity of the programme, we would prefer to provide a coach to support the young people during the first year,’ she conti­nues. But there is not enough funding. ‘We main­tain infor­mal cont­act with many of them, howe­ver,’ adds Daniel Brändlin.

‘Pupils have in low esteem their teachers as well as their over­se­ers; and, over­all, the young copy the elders and cont­end hotly with them in words and in deeds.’

Plato, 427–347 BCE

A student of Socra­tes, Plato foun­ded the first Greek school of philo­so­phy in the form of the Plato­nic Academy. As a thin­ker, his theory of forms was influ­en­tial, propo­sing that time­l­ess, non-mate­rial ideas are the ulti­mate reality.

A flexi­ble system

Die Chance was present throug­hout Andrea Sanchez’s appren­ti­ce­ship, though it did not provide regu­lar or inten­sive support. ‘My advi­ser always checked in with me to ask how I was doing and whether ever­y­thing was ok,’ says Sanchez. She comple­ted the first year of the appren­ti­ce­ship and was very happy. ‘Ever­y­thing was new, and I was travel­ling into Zurich by train to attend the school,’ she recalls. But the second year was more diffi­cult. Things were no longer new and exci­ting, and she got bored. She did not feel she was being chal­len­ged. And this is where the care­ers advi­ser came in. ‘When I wasn’t doing so well, having good support really paid off,’ says Sanchez. ‘When my moti­va­tion was at rock bottom, I needed it.’ She began ques­tio­ning whether she had chosen the right appren­ti­ce­ship. ‘The trai­ning was fairly easy,’ says Sanchez. She wanted more. But rather than drop­ping out of the appren­ti­ce­ship, she spoke to her instruc­tor and her care­ers advi­ser, who persua­ded her that a comple­ted appren­ti­ce­ship was a good place from which to take her next steps. ‘They showed me how flexi­ble the Swiss educa­tion system was,’ she says. Her posi­tive rela­ti­onship with her instruc­tor was key. ‘He convin­ced me that I was good at my specia­lism and that I could go far.’ A close friend also helped her regain her moti­va­tion. Finally, ever­y­thing fell into place: ‘School, the appren­ti­ce­ship and my rela­ti­onship with other people – I lear­ned a lot of perso­nal life lessons.’ She impro­ved her perfor­mance again and comple­ted her three-year appren­ti­ce­ship as a texti­les specia­list with outstan­ding results. It was the start of a bril­li­ant year. She took her final exam in August, and in Septem­ber, she took part in the Swiss­Skills Cham­pi­on­ships. ‘It was like finis­hing another appren­ti­ce­ship, but a bit more compli­ca­ted,’ says Sanchez. And she won. Passing her driving test was just another achie­ve­ment under her belt. At the same time, she was promo­ted to head of depart­ment. ‘2018 was my year,’ she says.

My own apprenticeship

Benja­min Brungard also had his own success story. He reali­sed that a job could be more fun than it was hard work. He parti­cu­larly enjoys the social, inter­per­so­nal aspect. As deligh­ted as he was to start as a junior, things got even better. ‘Jobfac­tory crea­ted the media tech­ni­cian appren­ti­ce­ship just for me. Proba­bly because when I came to apply, there were a grand total of three media tech­ni­cian appren­ti­ce­ships available in Basel.’ ‘You’re being very modest,’ responds Paola Gallo. ‘You were set on beco­ming a media tech­ni­cian. You applied for the other posi­ti­ons, but what you really wanted was to stay at Jobfac­tory.’ But there was no media tech­ni­cian appren­ti­ce­ship at the time. So Brungard asked the depart­ment head directly if they would be able to set one up. He was abso­lut­ely deter­mi­ned and persis­tent. And in the end, they crea­ted the appren­ti­ce­ship. ‘He succee­ded in crea­ting his own appren­ti­ce­ship,’ says Gallo. ‘It was really cool,’ adds Brungard. Just like Christ­mas. ‘And I’m still doing it now.’ He’s found his voca­tion. ‘It was the best profes­sio­nal decis­ion I could have made, and that’s a fact.’ In five years’ time, he sees hims­elf as a user expe­ri­ence desi­gner, either working for a company or running his own busi­ness. ‘It’s not a goal, it’s a plan – and I’ve alre­ady basi­cally got a time­line,’ he says, and laughs.

‘I have no hope whatsoe­ver for the future of our coun­try if the young people of today are to become the men of tomor­row.
Our youth are unbe­ara­ble, irre­spon­si­ble and appal­ling to behold.’

Aris­totle, 384–322 BCE

As an inves­ti­ga­tor of all things, he was one of the fathers of western science: Aris­totle. A student of Plato, he explo­red a wide range of topics, from epis­te­mo­lo­gi­cal to ethi­cal questions.

Don’t give up

Andrea Sanchez also knows where she’s heading. She wants to combine her texti­les expe­ri­ence and exper­tise with commer­cial services. Her aim is to study at the Schwei­zer Textil­fach­schule STF in Zurich, and she would like to start her bachelor’s degree next year. She wants to learn ever­y­thing there is to know about texti­les, retail, purcha­sing and sales. ‘These topics were touched on in the appren­ti­ce­ship. A bachelor’s degree will go into much more depth and be much more speci­fic,’ asserts Sanchez. She has alre­ady proven hers­elf as head of depart­ment. ‘My colle­agues comple­tely respect me,’ she says. ‘I must come across as trust­wor­thy.’ Her educa­tio­nal perfor­mance has helped – not just the excel­lent result she achie­ved in her quali­fi­ca­tion, but in parti­cu­lar the know­ledge she has gained on the job. ‘They respect me comple­tely. If they have ques­ti­ons, I’m always able to help, and it’s worked out very well.’ She is also keen to share the expe­ri­ence she gained through her appren­ti­ce­ship. ‘I’m respon­si­ble for support­ing the appren­ti­ces within the company,’ she explains. One key lesson she lear­ned for hers­elf and which she wants to pass on: ‘You need to be able to accept help. There will always be times when you struggle.’ In these moments, knowing there are people to support you and help you regain your moti­va­tion is vital. ‘You always need someone who is there for you. It’s very diffi­cult if you’re comple­tely on your own. But there are lots of opti­ons that you won’t even be aware of. There’s always a way forward. It’s important not to give up.’

Learn more about the Swiss Foun­da­tion for Profes­sio­nal Youth Deve­lo­p­ment, Die Chance, the Foun­da­tion for Profes­sio­nal Prac­tice in Eastern Switz­er­land and the Job Facto­ries Foun­da­tion, on

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