Robert Roth

Job Factory
Year founded: 

Job Factory provides internships and training programmes for unemployed youth who have lost hope and are seeking a second chance in the job market.

Focus: Children and Youth, Labour Conditions, Unemployment
Geographic Area of Impact: Switzerland
Model: Social Business
Number of Direct Beneficiaries: 300 (2011)
Annual Budget: US$ 15 million (2011)
Percentage Earned Revenue: 97%
Recognition: Social Entrepreneur of the Year, Switzerland, 2005

The official unemployment rate among 15 to 24 year-olds in Switzerland is 3.2%, while the estimated number of unregistered, unemployed youth is around 20,000. In consideration of this fact, the youth unemployment rate is actually around 9%. Youth unemployment is particularly tragic since young people have a diminished chance of gaining employment later on if they are unable to acquire the necessary qualifications early in life; most end up receiving social welfare benefits. Job Factory determined that each unemployed youth costs the government around US$ 47,000 per year. For the city of Basel alone, this totals US$ 94 million per year for 2,000 unemployed youth.

Innovation and Activities
Job Factory offers a second chance in the job market for teenagers and young adults who have experienced a rough start. The goal is to avoid the stigmatization of young people due to involvement in welfare programmes, which typically ends their professional careers before they can even start.

Each year Job Factory offers 300 unemployed young people a six-month internship in the following areas: printing, information technology, kitchen furniture manufacturing, retail and sales, industrial assembly, guitar repairing, cooking and food service, hairdressing, facility management, packaging, recycling, candle making and handicrafts. Each division is organized as a profit centre.

As a private company, Job Factory must survive in the marketplace while offering an authentic, performance-oriented environment. It offers professional coaching through its Job Training Foundation, focusing on the strengths and weaknesses of each intern, representing a more cost-effective programme than traditional training for the unemployed. The unique combination of market-oriented work and specialized coaching enables the youth to obtain a successful start in professional life.

The economic and social departments of the Basel cantonal government work in cooperation with Job Factory, sending unemployed youth to Job Factory when alternative solutions cannot be found. To date, over 2,500 people have undergone a Job Factory internship. Eighty percent of the trainees who successfully complete the internship find an apprenticeship, employment or continue to pursue further education.

The Entrepreneur
By age 23, Robert Roth was managing a retail store. In 1976 he founded Weizenkorn, which is now the largest employer in Switzerland of young people suffering from psychological problems. Over the years he realized that many young people, not just those with physical or psychological handicaps, who could not find jobs were losing hope. He therefore conceived the Job Factory in 1999, actively launching it the following year, and today serves as its President and a member of the board.