To date, more than 25,200 jobseekers have participated on JobBridge. I am happy to report that it currently has 6,400 participants.
The scheme has proved to be extremely popular with people who, unfortunately, are unemployed and who have been unable to get work experience. In the past, internships tended to be offered in professional or graduate-type roles and proved to be an effective entry route to employment for those with higher education who had the family supports or networks which enabled them to avail of this type of opportunity. Unfortunately, people without these supports could not avail of internships, as to do so would have caused them to lose entitlement to their jobseeker's payment. JobBridge addresses this issue and also opens up internships as a route to employment for people with lower levels of skills or little in the way of employment experience. This breaks the cycle whereby in order to get a job, one requires experience, but in order to get experience, one requires a job. That is the catch-22 which JobBridge seeks to break.
JobBridge is a voluntary scheme. Interns are free to choose whether to participate. Accordingly, if the scheme is to be of benefit to lower skilled or inexperienced jobseekers, it requires host organisations to offer a range of internships across the employment spectrum. Therefore, I am not disposed to selectively limiting the availability of internships.
The Department has a number of controls in place to prevent abuse of the scheme. These include requirements on host organisations to provide a mentor to the intern, to sign and operate a standard agreement, to submit regular monitoring reports to the Department and to co-operate with random monitoring visits. More than 4,400 monitoring visits have been conducted to date - a very high level of detailed monitoring given that there have been around 9,000 host organisations - 98% of which were found to be satisfactory. There are also limits placed on the number of internships that can be offered by any one organisation related to the number of staff employed by the company and there are restrictions on the repeat or sequential use of internships. I am satisfied, based on the Department’s monitoring visits and the report of the independent evaluation, that these controls are working effectively.