The number of people dropping out of the Government’s JobBridge national internship programme early each year is almost as high as those who are completing the scheme, figures show.
Figures from the Department of Social Protection show that between the start of 2014 and the end of March this year, there have been 24,253 people on the JobBridge scheme. Of those, while 13,100 completed the course, 11,193 dropped out early for a variety of reasons.
In some parts of the country the drop-out rate has, at times, been higher than the completion rate.
For example in Dublin in 2014, 1,993 people finished early, compared to 1,742 who completed the course in full. It is a similar story in Cork this year, with 109 people so far dropping out in 2016 compared to 96 completions.
A variety of reasons are given for why people decide not to finish the course. The almost 5,000 people who left over the 27 month period examined because they had either got a job with another company or with their host company will be welcomed.
However, the 1,458 who left because the “placement was not suitable” and the 732 who opted to return to job searching instead will be cause for concern as will the 284 who cited cost factors for their decision. The department admitted that for 1,000 of those who left, there was no further information available as to why.
Social Protection Minister Joan Burton pointed out, in a parliamentary question response to Social Democrat TD Catherine Murphy, that since the scheme began in 2011, a total of 46,537 people started an internship, of which 15,211 progressed into employment immediately on completing the internship.
“Independent research indicates that 60% of jobseekers who participated in JobBridge progressed into paid employment within five months of completing an internship,” she said.
JobBridge was launched due to the collapse in the economy and the resultant sharp increase in unemployment. It was aimed at breaking the cycle whereby people could not get a job without experience, but could not get experience without a job.
The scheme has been dogged with controversy at times over the last four years, not least last week when this newspaper revealed that the Department of Social Protection had reversed its decision to ban all firms where it was alleged that interns had been assaulted and bullied, had their safety compromised or were forced to work unfair hours.
A total of 86 companies had received some form of ban from the scheme since it began in 2011, but no businesses had received suspensions from JobBridge since a November decision to lift the existing suspensions.
In 2013, Impact trade union, which represents thousands of special needs assistants, said it had encountered at least 100 cases where potential SNA posts had been filled through the JobBridge scheme.
Over the weekend, the IMPACT trade union called for JobBridge to be dissolved following its widespread misuse in the health service and elsewhere. The union has called for the scheme to be replaced with targeted programmes aimed at unemployed early school leavers, graduates, and the long-term unemployed.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved