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"Our view is that it has done the job it was asked to do" - JobBridge to be wound down from Friday

Consultation will soon begin for a new job activation programme to take its place.

 Minister Varadkar talking to press in Royal Irish Academy today.
Minister Varadkar talking to press in Royal Irish Academy today.
Image: Sasko Lavrov/RollingNews.ie

Updated at 6.30pm

JOBBRIDGE IS CLOSING to new applicants from Friday and is set to be replaced with a new programme.

Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar made the announcement this afternoon.

The minister said those still in the scheme will be able to finish their internships but that it is now being wound down.

A new scheme will take its place, the minister said today, which will pay people at least the minimum wage.

“Our view is JobBridge has done the job it was asked to do,” said Varadkar.

A consultation process is being set up with a view to introducing a new employment scheme for jobseekers in late-2017.

“That [scheme] will be much more focussed,” said Varadkar.

“It will be focussed on people who need work experience in order to get a foot on the employment ladder.

It will pay at the very least the net minimum wage and in addition to that it will have a training element and be limited in numbers.

Varadkar said the new scheme would likely have employers pay a contribution for being included, which he said would reduce to chances of “exploitation”.

Report

Varadkar’s announcement comes after a report found that JobBridge had served its purpose and should be replaced with the new programme.

JobBridge was set up in 2011 as an initiative to help the unemployed get work experience. The scheme had people on long term jobseeker’s benefit work as interns for a company in return for an extra €52 on top of their social welfare payment.

The scheme has come under heavy criticism in the years since it was launched, with various group and political parties calling for it to be discontinued earlier this year.

Chief among concerns raised by people was the exploitation of certain companies of the scheme, the small top up payment offered to people on the scheme and the overworking of interns.

pastedimage-66120 (File photo) A group marching that had formed in protest against JobBridge.

There was also strong criticism of low-skilled positions being advertised on the site, with suggestions that companies were using the initiative to hire “free labour”.

The report launched today by Indecon International Research Economists found that the scheme had been successful in helping people return to the job market.

Over 10,500 interns who had gone through the JobBridge scheme took part in a survey for the report.

Over a quarter of those surveyed were now in employment with their JobBridge organisation, with another quarter employed in some other sector.

In total, 64.2% of people who had gone through the scheme were now employed.

Satisfaction 

In terms of intern satisfaction, the responses varied under different aspects, but were positive in most cases.

70% of those surveyed agreed that their internship had given them new job skills and had provided them with an opportunity to gain quality work experience.

Six out of 10 were satisfied with the quality of the work experience they got at their internship, and over half said they were happy with the training they received, and said the scheme had enhanced their career goals.

IMG_20161018_161501 Leo Varadkar speaking today. Source: Cormac Fitzgerald

However, over half of those surveyed were dissatisfied with the value of the JobBridge top up payment, and three out of 10 didn’t believe the scheme met their expectations.

Speaking today, Varadkar referenced some of the controversies around businesses hiring people through JobBridge, for example in roles such as deli counter staff.

“We are going to ensure that [the new scheme] is more selective as to type of work experience that is available,” he said.

I think it’s important to say that work experience of any sort is valuable for jobseekers.

A Labour Market Council report agreed with the findings of the Indecon report, accepting that JobBridge was successful in its objective of helping jobseekers secure paid employment.

With reporting from Cliodhna Russell

Read: Watch: Micheál Martin calls AAA-PBP the ‘pro-Russia alliance’ as Dáil gets angry about Aleppo>

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Cormac Fitzgerald

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