The national internship scheme in Ireland, established in July 2011 and named JobBridge, which quickly gave rise to numerous digs such as JobBridge to Nowhere, is a scheme which has received much wide-spread criticism and personally, my opinion would probably allay with the critics. Recently it was announced that the scheme had filled 5,000 internship places, which admittedly is a positive thing.
However, the thousands of people who were to be seen queuing up in search of building a life for themselves at the much talked about Working Abroad Expo in Dublin over the past weekend might not agree that this all-remedying internship scheme is as positive a feat as it has been made out to be. The unemployed and the under-employed flocked in their throngs, jumping at the prospect of a life where they are not forced to live on handouts or work for companies effectively paying them an average of €1.25 per hour under a scheme that only ensures employment - if you could call it that - for between six and nine months.
A glance at the website for JobBridge, to be found at http://www.jobbridge.ie/default.aspx might infuriate those who disagree with the concept of slavery. For instance, a recent post advertises for the position of housekeeper; this nine month 'internship' would give the 'intern' practical training in such tasks as the preparation of tea and coffee and would even provide training in the setting up of tables and chairs. I find this sort of abuse devastating and cannot imagine how disheartening it is for unemployed hopefuls to come across such posts, whilst scouring the website for any prospects of a future.
Is any sort of 'work' better than no work at all? Is the prospect of an increase in one's social welfare package by a grand total of €50, to work on average 40 hours a week, enough to entice those who don't really want to work to go back to "work"? Is it a scheme which is primarily reserved for the youth of the country, or the few under 25s that have happened to stick around?
I do not think there is one Irish person under the age of 30 who can log on to Facebook without being greeted by posts from friends in sunny Melbourne or Perth, detailing the outrageous heat and showing photos of themselves splayed out on a sunny beach trying to shake the hallmark Irish pasty pallor. I'm not so sure the appeal of interning as a 'housekeeper' and learning such vital skills as how to correctly prepare a cup of tea (something which any self-respecting Irish person will have learned as soon as they could reach the kettle) is quite tempting enough when up against the climate and employment opportunities to be found in the land down under; that and the fact that the far flung region is probably more Irish than Ireland itself at this point.
I am failing to see the sense in such a scheme at this juncture in Ireland's plight; perhaps the fruits of the scheme will be played out in the future, when many of the 5,000 currently undertaking the internships are retained as employees with a full and fair wage from those companies that are effectively gaining extremely cheap, and what could be called slave labour for between six and nine months from each individual 'intern'. However, from the types of positions currently being advertised, I fear that such optimism might not be rewarded. Perhaps the system would have been more productive, had each company been forced to pay a more substantial wage of perhaps €250 per week to the interns, thus eliminating the financial burden on the State to continue payment of social welfare benefit to each intern and giving companies an opportunity to train an intern, at a cost below the minimum wage. The companies could have been further reimbursed when the success of the internships being offered were reviewed, possibly through some form of tax break.
As it stands, JobBridge seems more scam than scheme to me and more needs to be done in order to get those who want to work back to work because from the thousands queuing outside the Working Abroad Expo in Dublin as early as 6.30 am on Sunday morning, there is definitely a desire to work amongst the Irish people and JobBridge is not just a bridge to nowhere but a bridge to such destinations as Canada and Australia where the Irish are seen as worthy of responsibilities that far outweigh the task of making a good cup of tea.