Youth unemployment in Ireland is not a recent phenomenon.
However, the upsurge in youth unemployment levels, which the country has experienced since the recession began, peaking at 32% in 2012, indicated that this was no longer just a problem, it was an epidemic.
While this epidemic may have abated in the last two years, the social and economic symptoms of youth unemployment have been the cause of great concern, not only for our national government, but right across Europe, where the persistent high rates of youth unemployment across Member States has led to the development of the 'Youth Guarantee'. The premise of the 'Youth Guarantee' is to ensure that all unemployed people under 25 are offered a job, apprenticeship, traineeship or an opportunity to continue their education.
So, how has the 'Youth Guarantee' been implemented in Ireland? Well, the first measure of Ireland's 'Youth Guarantee' will commence in March, with the launch of the Youth Development Internship. Many commentators have dismissed this new initiative as 'The JobBridge for Young People' and undoubtedly, there are similarities between the two programmes.
However, the Youth Development Initiative provides a more supported structure for its participants, with the Department of Social Protection selecting individuals who they deem to be capable of participating effectively in the internship. While the interns will have completed a work preparation course prior to the four day a week placement and have access to a dedicated support team throughout the internship, there is also an onus on the host organisation to support the individual through mentoring and training programmes.
I think we sometimes forget the success that JobBridge has achieved, with three out of five interns having progressed to paid employment, so let's not underestimate the role that the Youth Development Internship could play in alleviating Wexford's own youth employment problems. This placement is essentially a six to nine month interview, where the participants have the opportunity to make themselves indispensable to the host organisation and achieve their goal of progressing to paid employment.
It would of course be naïve of me to suggest that the Youth Development Internship alone will solve our local and national youth unemployment problems….it won't! But we all need to view this internship programme as a step in the right direction, by providing the next generation with an opportunity to realise their potential.
Karl Fitzpatrick is the Managing Director of the multi award winning Chevron Training and Recruitment, presenter of South East Radio's 'Business Matters' and Vice President of Wexford Chamber.
Karl contributes to economic development at a local, national and European level. Karl is a member of Wexford County Council's Economic Strategy Policy Committee and Chambers Ireland Employment, Workplace and Skills Policy Council.