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Council libraries are using JobBridge for 'free labour', says Sinn Féin

One intern said he was told almost immediately that there was no chance of a job.

Image: Shutterstock/wavebreakmedia

Updated: 10.52am

SOME 173 PEOPLE have been hired as librarians as part of the JobBridge internship scheme since July 2011.

A further 125 people have been taken on in roles such as archive assistants or clerks.

Sinn Féin has criticised this figure, saying many of these interns are or were working in county libraries, while no such vacancies are listed on publicjobs.ie.

Adam Brennan spent nine months interning with Monaghan County Council Library service, on the JobBridge scheme.

He was hired to work on a cataloguing project which entailed uploading data to the library database.

Brennan claims that early on in his internship he was told that there would be no chance of employment.

I was called to attend a meeting with the head of HR on my second week with the library. One of the first things she said to me was that they wanted to be very clear on the point that there would no chance of employment at the end of the program. She said that the last intern got quite upset when they were not hired and they had no wish to repeat that experience.

“After working at the library for two weeks I had mastered all of the skills required to carry out my work. So much so in fact, that I was at a proficiency level where I was deemed qualified to train in another intern,” Brennan said.

Sinn Fein - removal of rates exemption Aengus Ó Snodaigh Source: PA Archive/Press Association Images

Aengus Ó Snodaigh, Sinn Féin’s social protection spokesperson, said Brennan’s experience is “further proof that the government rhetoric that JobBridge is working is clearly a falsehood”.

“It is a scheme that maximises the benefits to the employer through free labour and the government through lower live register figures, while minimising any benefit to workers.”

Last month, Sinn Féin launched an alternative to the scheme.

A spokesperson from Monaghan County Council said the local authority has facilitated 37 JobBridge internships to date, with six participants currently in position.

In a statement, the council said: “The programme provides the participants with an opportunity to put into practice skills they have learned during training and/or education, in a workplace setting, to enhance those skills, understand the workplace environment and context and to benefit from a mentor or supervisor’s experience and advice.”

It added: “Great effort is put in by individual staff members to support and mentor the interns during their work placement.”

JobBridge evaluation Joan Burton and Enda Kenny Source: Niall Carson

A spokesperson from the Department of Social Protection did not comment on the library issue specifically.

However, they noted that the government has made “rapid progress” in reducing unemployment – which has fallen from a crisis peak of 15.1% to 10.1% now – through its Pathways to Work strategy, which includes JobBridge.

There is no compulsion on any jobseeker to participate in JobBridge. JobBridge is a voluntary scheme, and its aim is to help break the cycle where jobseekers are unable to get a job without experience. The scheme is open to the full spectrum of jobseekers, regardless of age or qualifications.

“Independent evaluation of the scheme has demonstrated its success, with three in five participants securing employment following their internship. The 61% progression rate for JobBridge is among the best in Europe, where progression rates for similar internship schemes average just 34%.”

Since its introduction four years ago, 520 complaints have been received – with 43 companies now banned from hiring interns for misuse of the programme.

To date, more than 9,000 monitoring visits have taken place. Tánaiste and Social Protection Minister Joan Burton previously said 97% of these “have been of a satisfactory nature”.

Originally published: 6.01am

Read: Sinn Féin is launching an alternative to JobBridge … with some American inspiration

Read: ‘If it wasn’t for JobBridge, I’d still be on benefits’

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Órla Ryan

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