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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: June 29, 2011 @ 7:30 am

    Is JobBridge, the national internship scheme, an excuse for cheap labour?

    Laura Slattery

    Carnage in the labour market has been so complete during this recession that employers are no longer employers, but host organisations. At least, that’s what the companies who take on temporary workers under the Government’s internship scheme, JobBridge, will be called. But is the National Internship Scheme an excuse for cheap labour? That’s one of the questions posed in a Q&A attached to the Department of Social Protection’s press advisory on the scheme, launched by Joan Burton at Facebook’s Dublin offices this morning.

    The Department’s answer to its own question, unsurprisingly, is no. “The National Internship Scheme provides an opportunity for those seeking employment to gain valuable work experience in a host organisation. The scheme aims to keep participants close to the labour market with the goal of improving their employability so that they enhance their prospects of securing employment upon completion.”

    Places will be advertised on www.jobbridge.ie from Friday.

    Internships, it would seem to me, are a good idea in principle, but in practice the exploiting devil often lies in the exploitative detail – the pay, or lack of it; the length of scheme (too long on little or no pay and clearly the host’s motivations lie solely in cutting its payroll); the quality of the training and experience provided; and the resulting employability potential (whether at the “hosting” company or at another employer who likes the look of an internship on a CV).

    In this case, the pay is just €50 a week above social welfare entitlements and the term of the internship is six to nine months. It’s impossible to know what the resulting employability potential will be, partly because it’s impossible to know what the state of the labour market will be in six to nine months’ time, which just serves as a reminder that 5,000 places in JobBridge, however advantageous it may prove for some individuals, isn’t a substitute for a job creation policy.

    Indeed, the Department is obviously concerned by the risk that the scheme may actually deter employers from recruiting at full pay. One of the conditions for employers is that the internship can’t be provided to displace an existing employee, nor should the intern carry out work for which a vacancy is being advertised. The organisers say they reserve the right to review the participation of companies where these practices are alleged.

    The level of interest from companies in JobBridge is described by Burton as “strong”. Some 320 small businesses have committed to 590 places, while the larger companies to have signed up to the scheme include Dawn Foods, KPMG, Arthur Cox, Mercury Engineering, Hertz, ESB, Bord na Móna, Tesco, PricewaterhouseCoopers, A&L Goodbody and Aer Lingus. And why not? With the Department paying the €50 per week payment, there is no direct cost to playing host.

    Burton, whose job it is to be optimistic, says she hopes that some of the employers who “find talented and motivated interns” will then offer them an actual job: “In other words, the period of internship would be a job interview for a longer period of employment.”

    The pressure that this thought will put interns under will undoubtedly be immense.

    • John says:

      It appears that the internship programme excludes principal only sole traders or limited companies without an existing full time employee. It does seem unfair. From my own experience i was a principal only business with one employee and i had to let that employee go 18months or so ago because of bad debts and as a result i have to spend my time doublejobbing which means its difficult to grow the business. My model has now changed An internship would be ideal because i could train someone up and impart great experience but it appears i am excluded .

    • Yvonne says:

      Why is no-one asking how this internship scheme differs from the graduate Work Placement Programme already in place and administered by FAS, aside from the top up 50 euro? A quick look on the FAS website will show that there are a huge number of WPP jobs on offer. A recent report published in the Irish Independent suggested that take up is low.

      Reasons for this may include
      a) many graduates do not qualify for social welfare at all. Therefore they get nothing on the WPP, or 50 euro on the Internship scheme and effectively work for free. In effect they are actually paying to work as they cover travel, subsistence etc. There aren’t many who can afford this. Also, not all graduates are 21. Some are mature, starting new careers and have families.
      b) Internships or work placements often do not have clear definition. People who work for nothing should at the very least receive real training, relevant to their degree so that they can use the placement to their advantage when the jobs market comes back.
      c) Though Joan Burton and the Government promise ‘to try’ to ensure that the interns do not displace existing workers, this will happen. Why wouldn’t any company take advantage of a free worker in place of a paid worker, even if its only for 9 months. Also, aren’t companies less likely to hire for real paying jobs if they can get a graduate free of charge?

    • Nicola says:

      Internships do not work. Show me the figures where any internship programme has led to sustainable employment? The UK have pulled their Govt sponsored programme because of massive abuses of interns and proof that cheap labour was the goal of the companies involved in many cases. – http://t.co/Z2brnmv – Anything that is provided for free is devoid of value for both parties. Proof of the systemic abuse facilitated by such a programme is the wealth of multinationals involved, as John indicates, true SME’s are excluded when they stand the most exponential prospects of gain as would interns of such micro companies. Those companies that make up the bulk of participants will be companies that could well afford to pay at least minimum wage but actively choose not to. It is a fundamentally flawed programme that appeals to the egos of those involved and will not even achieve a neutral influence for the interns.

    • Jonathan says:

      The benefits of this scheme outweigh any of the so called disadvantages. I will definitely be advertising a position as soon as permissible. In my instance we will be creating a new position in an area we havent really put much effort into before with a view to expanding our business. As a small company with tight finances it is imperative to grow to survive, the position we advertise if it works would lead to a permanent position which would benefit the intern and the company. If it doesn’t succeed we would have tried something new, maybe failed but we would have learned something, the intern would still have the benefit of experience, a good reference and the oppurtunity to make business contacts. Win win all-round.

    • Aristophanes Hibernicum says:

      There’s nothing new here: “work placements” have been available on the FAS website for months…. so what’s new about this? Seems like yet another sleight-of-hand/numbers scam from same-old government mandarins: numbers fall off the dole therefore the “JOBS” initiative must be working…… Bogus if not dubious duplicity…. Where’s the Job’s, Joan? Really outrageous – “Perfidious Labour!”

    • John B. Reid says:

      It’s an excuse in place of true pro-growth fiscal policies! This so-called “internship programme” is truly pathetic. It will do absolutely nothing to deal with Ireland’s frightening, and worsening, unemployment crisis. Our glorious political leaders do not have the bravery nor the intellect to do, from a fiscal policy standpoint, what will truly get confidence moving again. Specifically, slashing the higher rates of income and capital gains tax rates in order to allow businesses and families to keep more of what they earn so that they can hire more staff, purchase new equipment and reinvest in their businesses. It would give people the confidence to invest in the economy generally, by reversing the ever-present fear, by rational people, that our witless and gutless politicians will simply resort to jacking up tax rates (on those who already pay virtually all of the taxes) yet again, instead of taking the responsible and good housekeeping thing by cutting the government’s appalinging This is classic and basic economics, which has been forgotten by our witless and sleepy academic economists.

    • val says:

      I think the irish govt has well and truly let it’s people down. Surpression seems to be the word of the day. I think the days of pocket money are long gone at 50 euros a week. We should be merited on our work experiences and education not on an old age philosophy of working like a slave in hopes of a permanent job. Fas and this new job creation need to re hash their policies and regulations. This is only a quick fix and abusing the desperation of so many unemployed workers. It’s humiliating to the irish and incentive why so many irish are moving overseas to respectable working conditions.

    • Viv lynch says:

      Indeed. Because what this country really needs is another bunch of complaining cynics. Rather than focusing on the negative, consider the positive individual impact such a scheme will deliver. If any of you actually knew someone suffering from the devastating effect that doing nothing productive each and every day has on a person, perhaps you would actually have some insight into the real benefits of this scheme. So a company gets some free staff. The staff are not doing it for free. They get money from the government. Not much, but it keeps the wolf from the door. We should be grateful we don’t live in a country where it’s every man for himself and if you can’t afford to buy food you simply starve. Grow up. If the cynics are all so clever get out there and take actions. Easy to be an expert from your comfy office chair.

    • Tim Buckley says:

      I disagree that internships are the same as WPPs. In an internship if it is conducted properly the intern will have, with their mentor, agreed a set program of learning outcomes, goals and achievements. The mentoring should be on an ongoing basis and should provide a continous feedback loop on the progress of the intern. In the case of graduates although they may possess a degree or similar academic qualification they are not necessarily qualified at any job and would still have had to work for low wages in an initial training period with a company. I feel this program could be ideal for those who are trying to switch from an existing career that is no longer viable, it could help them identify the transferable skills that they already possess.

    • Rosanne says:

      Before setting up a scheme like this one mentioned above, employers, the government and FÁS should check up the definition of an intern. An intern is logically a graduate or a student still at college who spends so many weeks in a company to practice his/her knowledge gained in class. This means that an intern usually needs some guidance from real professionals in the host company and/or some work progress reviews to make sure that the intern learns what will benefit him/her in his/her future career once the internship is over.

      How many host companies do know the intern’s position? I mean: do they realize the complexity of the position advertised under the WPP or what will be next, the National Internship Scheme?
      Some companies probably do… And they are hoping that the intern will be able to do the job like a real employee. And in some cases, the intern will probably be able to do the job like an employee! In this case, he/she should be paid in full like an employee.

      There should be some check-up on the host companies before accepting the intern and even during the internship.
      For example, in the context of a graphic design internship, the intern has to get some excellent work for his/her portfolio. Thus, host companies should make sure that they have someone in the company who has some knowledge in design to be able to lead the intern in his/her work. Otherwise, what is the graphic design intern going to learn in a company where he/she is the only in-house graphic designer? The FÁS, the government and employers want to make sure that the intern will gain invaluable experience, and not “just an experience”. It is difficult enough to survive for nine months as an intern. Thus, the intern should get the invaluable experience he/she deserves as a graduate. In the case of a graphic design internship, the intern should get some excellent work for his/her portfolio and not something mediocre. If the graphic design intern is placed in a host company where nobody knows anything about design, the intern will not progress in his/her design career.

      And it could be the same problem in other sectors. This is why host companies should be visited or monitored regularly as well during the internship to make sure that the intern is getting the right experience for his/her career.


    • Julian Hayward says:

      I found these Internships are a waste of time because employers are making sure they pick qualified and 3rd level educated young people and are bias to the older generations so ageism is very much a problem these days and since education has changed a lot during the last few years makes it very difficult for the mature workers with vase amount of experience to tackle the employment market. I have been unemployed for over two and half years and have been doing various part time courses leading to Fetac certifications and tried every trick in the book to seek employment in Limerick without success and yes even tried 20 internships positions on Job bridge too but only received 4 interviews with negative feedback at the worse one interview lasted 2min after traveling into town for the manager to say he was just going through the cv to get as many applicants as possible and would contact me if successful (I didn’t get a chance to say anything except my name?). The only thing these internships are good for is to get people off the live register for 6 to 9mths so the government can say at the next election that employment went down on their watch what happens after that not there problem. So that will be another 20 million wasted!

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