Municipality of Basel Mentorship Programme

In 2000, Switzerland was suffering from an increase in youth unemployment, particularly among young women and non-Swiss nationals. The cantons of Basel-Stadt and Basel-Landschaft partnered to create a mentoring programme to help young people find suitable and sustainable employment. It was funded by the cantonal Office of Gender Equality and the Federal Office for Professional Education and Technology and was very successful, with over 70 percent of the first 500 mentees finding an apprenticeship or job placement.

The challenge

Since 2000, an increasing number of school-leavers have been “registering at Swiss unemployment offices, with young women and non-Swiss young women disproportionately affected”. [1] Switzerland has not been immune from the Europe-wide growth in youth unemployment. “While unemployment in Switzerland is relatively low ... a growing number of young people find it increasingly difficult to manage the transition from school to the labour market.” [2]

The initiative

An initiative was set up in Basel and the surrounding area in 2000 for non-Swiss young women. “An innovative partnership between two Cantons, Basel-Stadt and Basel-Landschaft in Basel has developed a new approach to reduce youth unemployment. Instead of public agencies providing advice to young people about apprenticeships or placements, young business leaders provide personalised support through mentoring of young people” [3] to help them get started in their career. In 2004, the programme was expanded to include non-Swiss young men.

“In summary, [4] the programme aims to encourage [young people] in finding an apprenticeship to enhance their chances of being able to eventually enter the labour force.

The public impact

By 2016, it was possible to say that “in the last 16 years around 1,000 young people have taken part in the mentoring programme in Basel”. [5]

“The results of the programme are impressive:

  • “Around 80% of mentees find an apprenticeship or placement each year, and while the length of time spent on the programme can vary from three months to two years, it is often the case that mentees find an appropriate training after eight months.
  • “Mentees whose search runs for longer than expected or who also face more complex challenges, for example learning difficulties, are referred to other relevant support in the local area.” [6]

The young business people who have acted, and continue to act, as mentors have benefited from the programme as well. “As well as experiencing the satisfaction of helping others, many develop a deeper understanding of young people and the challenges they face as well as developing skills and experience that can help with their own professional development". [7]
It was seen as a success in the local area: “reflecting its success, the programme won the Basel Stadt prize for Integration in 2005”. [8]

What did and didn't work

All cases in our Public Impact Observatory have been evaluated for performance against the elements of our Public Impact Fundamentals.


Stakeholder Engagement Good

The mentoring programme was established in the year 2000 with the funding received from the Büro für Gleichstellung [the Office of Gender Equality], with a focus on supporting young women into work. It was well supported by the administrations of the two Basel cantons that were involved. As it developed, the Bundesamt für Berufsbildung und Technologie [the Federal Office for Professional Education and Technology] funded the programme jointly with the Office of Gender Equality.

The main stakeholders, apart from local government, were the participants, mentors and mentees alike. The mentors who took part in this voluntary activity showed a significant engagement, “The mentors support the mentees for approximately four hours a month, averaging around 30-40 hours in total". [9]

Similar programmes have been established in Kanton Zürich and other Swiss cantons. The mentoring programmes meet annually to discuss their achievements and challenges.

Political Commitment Good

The political actors in the two Basel cantons understood the seriousness of the youth unemployment problem and “as such were willing to contribute resources to the programme”. [10] Steffi Wirth, a programme manager of the initiative said that despite the strong political commitment she and her colleagues were unsure whether they’d be able to secure funding past the first year. Yet political leaders, sensing the challenge facing young people and the need for an intervention, were willing to give the programme time to demonstrate measurable progress.


Clear Objectives Fair

Although designed as a programme to reduce unemployment, the mentoring programme did not have measurable objectives in terms of unemployment reduction targets. However, the core objective remained consistent throughout which was to help the unemployed young people of the region find suitable apprenticeships by linking them to mentors from business. Wirth explained that given the programme’s success – about 80% of mentees find an apprenticeship – there hasn’t been pressure from government to ascribe specific targets.

Evidence Strong

Many successful mentoring schemes have existed, generating a strong body of evidence for their worth. For example in America the National Mentoring Partnership was founded in 1989 and the ‘Big Brothers and Big Sisters’ scheme has gone on for over 100 years with a measurable, significant impact, such as reduced alcohol and drug abuse amongst mentorees. Furthermore, this specific mentorship initiative in Basel undertook a thorough evaluation after three years which demonstrated the success of the program prior to it being expanded “across both Basel-Stadt and Basel-Land cantons.”

Feasibility Good

The financial feasibility of the programme was established by the funding provided by the Office for Gender Equality and the Federal Office for Professional Education and Technology. “Clearly, the major financial saving offered by the mentoring programme is a reduction in the social insurance (unemployment benefit) bill. On the other hand, the cost of the programme involves 80% of one local government officer's time, along with 20% of an administrator's time (approximately CHF120,000)". [11]

The human resources were vital, in particular establishing matching mentor to mentee. “Fundamental to the success of the programme is partnering the 'right' mentor to the 'right' mentee. One of the programme's strengths is its relatively small scale which enables the programme managers to get to know the mentees, helping them choose the best mentor for each individual. In the past six years only three to four mentoring relationships have not worked well and, in these cases, the programme officer has worked with the mentor and mentee to resolve the issue and re-partnered them if necessary". [12]


Management Good

The mentoring programme was managed by the local government in two Basel cantons.

The mentorship programme has a straightforward but effective structure:

  • At the centre of the system is a programme manager (PM) who connects the mentee to the mentor.
  • The PM interacts with the mentee to understand the background, requirement and share the programme details.
  • The PM facilitates the meeting of mentee and mentor and agreement on the programme structure that suits the need of the mentee.
  • The PM remains a facilitator till the successful completion of programme and concludes the engagement with careful assessment of the interaction.

Measurement Fair

The programme was measured thoroughly after it had been active for three years. “An evaluation was completed by the local Fachhochschule für Sozialarbeit in 2003, which assessed:

  • “The overall acceptance of the project.
  • “Its gender-specific focus.
  • “The participation of non-Swiss young people.
  • “The project's uses and competences.
  • “Its voluntary component [(involving 150 mentors].

“The positive results of the evaluation were seen to provide a foundation for the implementation of the project across both Basel-Stadt and Basel-Land cantons". [13]

As of 2017, about 80% of mentees annually secured an apprenticeship. Steffi Wirth, the programme manager, pointed to the extent to which mentees keep in touch with their mentors long after the formal relationship has ended as proof of the programme’s impact on the lives of young people. “We see mentees inviting their mentors to their weddings. We see mentees calling their mentors to announce the birth of a child,” said Wirth.

Alignment Fair

The support from politicians and funding from governmental agencies was crucial in starting the mentoring program in Basel. A federal governmental agency also came forward to support the initiative after understanding its success.
The most important aspect of alignment was between the mentors and the mentees, which was largely successful. Wirth noted the programme asks mentors to commit to mentoring until their mentee secures an apprenticeship. According to Wirth, most mentors have followed through on this. As of 2017, a major challenge facing the programme was finding young male mentors to mentor the young men in the programme. “
We have a lot of older men willing to be mentors,” said Wirth. “But we need younger men who are still active in their working life.”