Only 23 out of 5,000 internships filled under initiative
JUST 23 internships have so far been set up through a €20m government job initiative -- even though up to 5,000 places are on offer.
The Department of Social Protection has been inundated with applications from companies that want to sign up to the scheme, known as JobBridge, which opened to applicants at the beginning of last month.
But employers' interest has not been matched by the 400,000 people on the live register. Although the country's top businesses -- such as Smurfit Kappa, Aer Lingus and the Quinn Group -- are offering placements, just 23 positions have been filled so far.
Business experts last night said the Government was not getting the message across to those on jobseekers' benefit that they could apply.
Under the scheme, interns who work 40 hours a week get an allowance of €50 a week on top of their social-welfare payments. They also get work experience during the six- to nine-month internship, and the chance of being kept on by the employer at the end.
Employers benefit from fresh talent at a low cost.
One business consultant said the uptake needed to be stepped up. "The current uptake is very disappointing," said Brian Feeney of business advisers Russell Brennan Keane.
"I don't know if there's a problem on the intern side, but there seems to be a lack of awareness. We recently sent out a message to our clients who are potentially eligible to take on these interns."
A total of 100 candidates were selected by employers to participate in the internships, but only 46 of these met the qualification criteria for the scheme. Of these, just 23 are now in internships.
The initiative announced by Social Protection Minister Joan Burton aims to provide up to 5,000 work-experience placements to people who have been unemployed for at least three months.
Around 1,400 internship opportunities across a range of sectors are on offer, and are advertised on www.jobbridge.ie
The Department of Social Protection said measures had been introduced to prevent companies using the scheme to hire cheap labour.
It is administering the scheme with the employment services division of the former FAS agency.
It said it would review internships in the event of reports of existing employees being displaced by interns.