However, a recent report suggests that significant reform is needed to enhance the experience of participants and increase their progression into secure employment.
Internships may have a role to play, but only if “properly structured and controlled”, according to the National Youth Council of Ireland (NYCI) report JobBridge: Stepping Stone or Dead End?. The study explores the views and experiences of young people aged 18-25 who participated in the National Internship Scheme, JobBridge.
Speaking at the launch, author of the report James Doorley, NYCI deputy director said: “The scheme has been the subject of much political debate, public comment and press attention. However, we wanted to get behind the headlines and engage directly with the real experts , that is, the participants on the scheme themselves.”
57% satisfied with their internship but only 27% secure full time employment
The study provides data and analysis on young people’s experiences of JobBridge. Some of the key figures reveal:
- There have been 36,434 participants in scheme – of whom 10,125 were under 25 years of age (up to January 2015)
- 376 host organisations have taken on 10 or more interns
- 45% of the 65,686 JobBridge positions advertised have never been filled
- Gaining work experience was the primary motivating factor for participation in the scheme
- 41% stated they were treated like other team members by the host organisation during the internship, however 22% stated they were not
- 57% indicated they were satisfied with their internship, with 31% dissatisfied
- 100% dissatisfaction rating among those who stated they were compelled to participate by the Department of Social Protection
- 45% would recommend JobBridge to another jobseeker, with 31% saying they would not
- 68% stated that they agreed the scheme gave them valuable work experience
- 44% agreed however that the internship was used for free labour
- While 27% secured full time employment and 14% secured part time employment following their internship, 31% remained unemployed
Interview findings mixed
Interviews with participants on the scheme indicated that JobBridge had facilitated them to gain work experience, helped them get out of a rut and provided contacts and networking opportunities. However, the interviews also identified the difficulties many faced meeting the costs of the internship, the lack of mentoring provided, some evidence of abuse of the ‘cooling-off period’ and the lack of rights and lack of clarity on intern rights.
“The findings of this research are mixed, while a majority of participants were satisfied following participation, the research identified a number of deficiencies and a lack of quality. These range from poorly designed internships, inadequate mentoring, instances of unacceptable treatment of interns and lack of rights and clarity on rights. Other issues which emerged included insufficient monitoring, job displacement and inadequate income support. We are also concerned that only 27% secured full time employment,” explained Mr Doorley.
NYCI are making ten recommendations** to reform and revise the scheme. These include;
- Undertaking an analysis to determine the real contribution of the scheme to employment and employability
- Restricting the scheme to those host organisations and sectors where progression to employment is high
- Reforming the current monitoring scheme by moving away from checklist approach and towards focus on quality of internships
- Immediate action to close loopholes which are facilitating abuse of cooling off period and leading to job displacement
- Doubling the existing top up payment from €50 to €100 per week
- Calling on the Department of Social Protection to abandon proposals to introduce “First Steps” which is variant of JobBridge which would be mandatory for some young unemployed people
Higher standards needed as economy grows
“JobBridge is providing valuable work experience for some and supporting others into employment: overall, however, the scheme is lacking in quality. As the scheme is being operated by the state and funded by the taxpayer to the tune of €85m a year, we should demand and expect much higher standards and much better results.
“As the economy grows and employment recovers it is vital that we provide jobseekers quality work experience opportunities. It is also crucial that schemes such as JobBridge do not lead to job displacement and undermine the availability of the entry level jobs that many young people depend on to start their career. We must ensure that JobBridge is a stepping stone into employment and not just another dead end,” concluded Mr Doorley.