The National Internship Scheme was launched on 1st July 2011. It provides internship opportunities of either 6 or 9 months for unemployed individuals on the Live Register, in organisations in the private, public and community voluntary sectors.
Its aim is to assist in breaking the cycle where jobseekers are unable to get a job without experience and provide the opportunity to gain valuable experience, relevant knowledge and skills in a working environment.
The JobBridge Scheme has made significant progress since it came into operation on the 1st July 2011. Over 12,800 internships have commenced to date with 5,578 participants currently on an internship as at 6th December 2012 and over 2,100 internship opportunities presently advertised on www.jobbridge.ie. An independent evaluation of the Scheme conducted by Indecon found that 52% of individuals who have participated in JobBridge have progressed into employment on completion of their internship placements. This represents very significant progress and very strong progression rates into employment.
In response to the specific matter raised by the Deputy, I wish to advise an email complaint in respect of this matter was sent by UNITE trade union on 27th November at 20:49 to the JobBridge Central Unit. This matter was fully investigated on 28th November and a response was issued by the JobBridge Central Unit on 29th November at 09:23. This matter was also raised by Deputy Joe Higgins as a Topical Debate Motion on 29th November though it was not ultimately selected for answer; a response was accordingly then issued to the Deputy on 30th November at 16:18 in respect of this matter.
The complaint alleged that Chartered Accounts Ireland was using JobBridge to displace employees. It was alleged that these incidences of displacement took effect from August 2012. As highlighted above, this complaint was treated very seriously by my Departments’ officials and investigated immediately.
The investigation of this complaint found that Chartered Accountants Ireland had only advertised one internship opportunity on the JobBridge website since August 2012. This internship position, reference: 710310 was for a Marketing Executive. The advert went live on the JobBridge website on 21st August 2012. Our records indicate that nobody has been selected by the company to start this internship. This was communicated via email to an official of UNITE and Deputy Joe Higgins. In the respective email responses from the JobBridge Central Unit. UNITE was invited to contact the JobBridge unit in the event of any further queries or concerns in this regard and that staff in the unit would assist further. My Department has not to date received a response to the email correspondence sent to UNITE and Deputy Higgins on this matter.
Furthermore, UNITE and the Deputy were also advised that Chartered Accountants Ireland submitted an additional five internship vacancies but these were rejected by the JobBridge team as they did not meet the Scheme’s quality criteria.
The terms and conditions for participation in JobBridge are stringent to ensure that strong systems and controls are in place.
In order to protect the Intern and to ensure the integrity of the JobBridge Scheme a variety of control measures and criteria have been introduced. These ensure that the internship does not displace an existing position; that it provides appropriate training and development experience; and that appropriate mentoring and support is provided to the Intern.
Firstly, the Standard Agreement signed and agreed to by both the Intern and the host organisation upon commencement clearly states the terms of the internship; including the expected working hours, which can range from 30–40 hours (maximum) per week and the specific learning outcomes the intern will gain over the course of their internship.
Secondly, to ensure that both the host organisation and intern are abiding by the spirit and the rules of the scheme, the Department of Social Protection are involved in the on-going monitoring of internships. This involves the regular review of monthly compliance reports and the conducting of random monitoring site visits to facilitate discussions with both parties to the internship. I am delighted to advise that 97% of monitoring visits conducted to-date were of a satisfactory nature. Remedial action has been taken in cases where the visit was deemed not to be of a satisfactory nature.
Consequently, it is worth noting that participation in the Scheme is voluntary and an intern may contact the JobBridge Team at any stage of their internship for advice and support.