One of Ireland's largest car repair specialists has strongly defended its decision to seek 28 interns from the Government's under-fire JobBridge scheme.
Advance Pitstop, which employs 200 staff nationwide, insists the interns will "gain practical experience" during a nine-month period with the firm.
An anti-JobBridge campaign group, led by Socialist MEP Paul Murphy, were today due to stage a protest outside the company's Dublin and Cork offices.
Mr Murphy claims that the firm will save €400,000 in wages by hiring 28 interns through the scheme.
The Government's internship scheme allows companies to hire unemployed workers who will then receive €50 on top of their social welfare allowance.
However, the company rejected suggestions that it is exploiting the scheme and revealed that the advertised positions have already attracted "significant interest".
"All JobBridge participants benefit from the investment in training by Advance Pitstop, and are trained and supervised by staff to the high standards dictated by our customer care policy," a spokesman said.
"Many participants have subsequently progressed to permanent employment. Indeed, over 10pc of our current full-time staff initially joined the company on such a scheme, including two of our branch managers."
JobBridge has come under fire after it was revealed that two companies sought PhD graduates for internship positions.
However, Social Protection Minister Joan Burton insisted that there is nothing wrong with firms using the scheme to advertise for PhD graduates.
Speaking at the launch of the 'Feeding Ireland's Future' initiative in Dublin, Ms Burton said that PhD graduates should not dismiss JobBridge as a means of getting into the workplace.
"If a PhD (graduate) is unemployed, of all the people we should expect in this country to be in a position to get good employment, they are the people who have qualified with PhDs," she said.
"If doing this helps them get back into the workforce, and I know a number of cases of people who have degrees and post-graduate degrees. . . well then it's all for the good."
Mr Calleary accused Ms Burton of adopting a "dismissive attitude" towards PhD students and said the revelation that companies are advertising for these highly qualified graduates was "undermining" the scheme.
"JobBridge should be about giving people experience and a feel for the work place. It should never have been designed to be targeted at PhD students. People are getting very suspicious of all of the Government's job creation claims and this is just compounding that suspicion," he told the Irish Independent.
Niall O'Connor Political Correspondent