New scheme gives unemployed graduates a chance to work
THOUSANDS of unemployed graduates are to get a jobs lifeline under a major government internship programme to be launched soon.
The scheme will allow for a 12-month work placement for graduates who come off the dole queue.
The interns will receive a state payment, topped up by a contribution from the employer, worth a total of about €18,000.
The state payment is expected to be in line with the current Jobseeker's Allowance of €196 per week, and the employer will pay an additional sum, believed to be around €150 per week.
The jobs will be right across the board, from schools and the health services to the private sector.
Local authority managers have already told Enterprise Minister Batt O'Keeffe that they have 1,800 jobs they could fill under such a scheme.
The Union of Students in Ireland (USI), which has had talks with Education Minister Mary Coughlan and Mr O'Keeffe on the issue, is optimistic that 20,000 graduate positions will be offered.
USI president Gary Redmond said: "It is vital that we take measures to keep our graduates in Ireland and utilise their skills in re-igniting the economy.
"How can we restore our economy while our graduates are emigrating to find jobs? Ireland needs their skills and training to pull this country out of the recession".
The internship programme will allow young teachers, health professionals, engineers and a raft of other graduates to gain vital experience, while receiving a modest income.
The moratorium on recruitment in the public sector has left thousands of jobs vacant. The scheme would fill some of the gaps in service that have resulted, at no additional cost to the Exchequer.
Private sector companies feeling the financial pinch would also welcome the salary sponsorship offered by the scheme.
While the payment would be less than a typical graduate starting salary of about €25,000 a year, it is pitched to be attractive enough to offer an alternative to unemployment or emigration.
Crucially, the intention is that the income would not be eligible for taxation, which requires changes to legislation.
The Department of Social and Family Affairs is working out the detail of the legislation and Minister Eamon O Cuiv is expected to bring it before the Dail within weeks.
It is estimated that about 91,000 graduates are unemployed and considering leaving Ireland for work while about 100 graduates from the class of 2009 are leaving the country every week.
There are other graduate internship programmes, such as those run by FAS and the employers body, IBEC, but none on the scale envisaged in this.
A spokesman for Mr O'Keeffe would not comment on the details of the scheme, but said the minister was very conscious of the employment challenge facing graduates and was very anxious to address it.