Here we go again…Can you deal with the ambiguity?

OK call me cynical but any company that starts off an internship description outlining that the “group has a turnover of approximately $60bn and employs in excess of 100,000 people globally” yet is looking to hire (at least) four interns for free through a government initiative strikes me as slightly callous.

Furthermore, any company that advertises these internship positions on a website, other than the official JobBridge website, also raises my suspicion. Having previously posted (here and here) about companies using third-party websites to list JobBridge internships and receiving a ridiculous response via email from the JobBridge team at the Department of Social Protection – I’m always concerned about a company’s real intentions when the advert differs between the two listings. Quite simply, the JobBridge website has requirements about what can be included on an internship listing – primarily that the applicant does not require any experience to apply.

I think it’s important to note at this stage that Dell currently lists 87 positions in Ireland on its Careers webpage, of which five are listed as JobBridge internships. For an internship scheme targeting internships for which the applicant requires zero experience, Dell surely expects a lot from its prospective free ’employees’ – conveniently not as a requirement of the internship but I think the phrase “Expertise in some of the following areas would be particularly helpful” really sets out who they’re really looking for (and if the position would really be offered to a graduate for example).

Four out of the five internship listings contain this phrase.

Warranty Cost Reduction Engineer – Limerick

eDell Online Customer Sales Support – Dun Loaghaire

New Product Introduction Associate Engineer – Limerick

Command Center Sr. Associate – Limerick

Command Center Sr. Associate – Limerick (same internship description as listed above but different ‘Job Requisiton Number’ suggesting two internships available)

I’m really just going to throw it out there and let you compare two adverts – and see for yourself if Dell is, in fact, looking for an inexperienced graduate/dole-head to give a lift up in their career prospects…or is actually looking for someone experienced enough to slot into the role and ‘hit the ground running’.

JobBridge internship #1: Warranty Cost Reduction Engineer

Listing from IrishJobs.ie (cross-posted from Dell’s own Careers page) v Listing from JobBridge website

Irish Jobs_Dell1     JobBridge_Dell1

Quick witted readers will notice the glaring differences between the two postings – the “official” advert on the JobBridge website has a modest Job Description and a short list of Skills Requirements (namely “Strong analytical and problem solving skills desirable. Multinational Environment“); whereas the advert on IrishJobs.ie suggests that Dell are, in fact, looking for someone who is a “self-starter with strong interpersonal and communication skills, ability to deal with ambiguity, exhibit initiative, collaboration and drive for results

And not only that, the advert goes on to explain that “Expertise in some of the following areas would be particularly helpful;

·           Program / Project Management Experience
·           Knowledge of Computer hardware architecture
·           Knowledge of Databases
·           Working knowledge of Microsoft Office applications
·           Strong analytical and problem solving skills
·           Multinational Environment”
[Personally, my favourite part of the skills requirement is the “ability to deal with ambiguity“.]
The second advert follows along the same lines as the one above but with a more comparable copy/paste job from the Dell Career webpage as the two job descriptions/skills requirements almost match – except for one interesting change in wording.
JobBridge internship #2: Project Programme Management Analyst
Listing from IrishJobs.ie (cross-posted from Dell’s own Careers page) v Listing from JobBridge website
Irish Jobs_Dell2     JobBridge_Dell2
In this case, the internship listings are almost identical – except the phrase “Expertise in some of the following areas would be particularly helpful“, which appears in the Dell/IrishJobs.ie posting, has been replaced with the phrase “Traiing in any of the following will be an advantage” (sic) on the official JobBridge advert – which suggests to me that the person uploading the internship on the JobBridge site were running dangerously close to suggesting prospective candidates would require experience to have any shot at acquiring this position.
While I’ve discussed before the fact that we all inherently know what JobBridge was expected to deliver and what the spirit of the scheme was trying to achieve, I’ll just remind you what the JobBridge website itself outlines an internship to be:
An internship provides the opportunity to gain valuable experience in a working environment to those looking to explore or gain the relevant knowledge and skills required to enter into a particular career field. JobBridge provides work experience placements for interns for a 6 month or 9 month period. Its aim is to assist in breaking the cycle where jobseekers are unable to get a job without experience, either as new entrants to the labour market after education or training or as unemployed workers wishing to learn new skills.”
And now, look back over the type of intern that Dell wants to recruit for free and ask would they really take on an intern in these positions if the jobseekers was a new entrant to the labour market after education or training, or an unemployed worker wishing to learn new skills? Would these internships be open to someone looking to explore or gain the relevent knowledge and skills required to enter into a particular career field?
Or are these internships primarily aimed at recruiting, for free, experienced, skilled workers on the dole who could quite easily fill these positions as a paid employee?

Yet another dodgy (or truthful) JobBridge advert…

As highlighted with the House of Ireland fiasco, a grey area seems to exist in relation to the advertising of JobBridge internships on third-party websites.

The JobBridge guidelines regarding advertising internships state that:

  • Once the internship is processed by the National Contact Centre (NCC) you will receive a notification that your placement is advertised on the JobBridge and Jobs Ireland websites. [both FÁS managed websites]
  • Placement opportunities will also be displayed on kiosks and in local Employment Services/LES offices nationwide.
  • You may also advertise the placement on your own website.

There is no mention of advertising the JobBridge internships on third-party websites – such as jobs listing sites or even Gumtree.ie … which leads me to the latest incident…

Kro IT Solutions recently advertised for a JobBridge intern – to work as a Personal Assistant / Administrative Assistant (depending on which advert you’re reading).

First up – the ‘official’ JobBridge advert – follows all the guidelines on advertising an internship, as long as the intern is :

technically minded, has good organisation skills, very flexible and willing to work hard” then they will be lucky enough to “gain practical experience in almost all aspects of running a small business, gain formal/informal training in … book-keeping, credit control, diary management, website development and develop skills in business; web technologies; book-keeping; credit control and PA skills“.

And now for the fun part …

Earlier, Kro.ie also had an advert on Gumtree.ie looking for an Administrative Assistant in which it stated that it was looking for someone :

confident enough to take on important business responsibilities, and even more importantly – confident enough to take on the menial tasks that keep me from important business responsibilities

Yes, you read that right – this company were looking for a JobBridge intern to work, for free, at no cost to themselves to do the “menial tasks” that they were otherwise too busy and important to do themselves. Staggeringly honest … or staggeringly exploitative?

Shortly after I tweeted about this advert and it received a few retweets – Lydia Mulvey (@Guineapiggypigtweeted to say that it had been changed…and so the plot thickens…

Turns out, one of my Twitter followers, @JoanneOM had rung the number supplied with the Gumtree advert and, as outlined in a comment on my blog here , asked them directly why they had posted such an advert.

It wasn’t long before an updated advert appeared on the Gumtree website. As seen here, it no longer makes reference to the JobBridge intern having to do the “menial tasks” previously mentioned, but instead has revised the advert to state that they are looking for :

someone confident enough to take on important business responsibilities, and even more importantly – confident enough to take on the tasks that help to support important business responsibilities.”

The new, updated advert goes on to say that (apparently) :

“We had had (sic) two jobbridge employees now and both have gone on to €35k jobs so this is a great opportunity for someone needing a break”

Once again, the question remains – was the real intention of the internship revealed in the original advert, or will the intern now gain the kind of meaningful experience that the ‘official’ and ‘revised’ advert mentions? Will the Host Organisation now ensure that the intern is not simply used to fulfill the so-called “menial tasks” simply because the advert has been revised? Somehow, I doubt it…

And yet again, I ask the question of the whole JobBridge scheme – how effectively is FÁS/Solas monitoring these adverts?

Or even … does anybody care?

@dbdolehead

While we’re on the topic of JobBridge monitoring…

Since the monitoring of JobBridge adverts is coming under such scrutiny recently (see my post yesterday), I’ve decided to blog again on a similar case regarding an internship as a “Computer Training Centre Assistant” at University College Cork.

[Note: There is nothing inherently wrong with the internship I’m using in this example, but the issue surrounding this internship and its advertisement on the JobBridge website is an example of the “monitoring” that takes place when the internships ‘go live’ on the site. Plus it was the only occasion where JobBridge actually responded to me directly regarding my complaint]

On May 2nd, University College Cork posted an advert on the JobBridge website looking for an intern to work for 9 months as  “Computer Training Centre Assistant”. Under the internship description, the following details were listed:

“The intern will gain practical experience in the organisation of training programmes and delivery of said programmes. The intern will develop a good understanding of website planning, design and maintenance. In addition, the intern will contribute to the development of internal Training Centre materials and contribute to the consideration of social media as an advertising medium. The intern will receive formal/informal training in the following: Terminal Four Content Management System, incoming student IT inductions, training programmes, and internal communications. On completion the intern will have attained skills in training, staff development, ECDL registrations, ECDL supervisions, student IT inductions and website maintenance/development.”

So, nothing unusual thus far, in fact the internship looks like a good opportunity for a graduate or unemployed training professional to gain more experience in the sector and develop their skills. The problem arose in the section of the JobBridge advert marked Skills Requirements. Here, the Host Organisation (UCC) listed, as a requirement,

“Knowledge of delivering training/teaching in Word, Excel, PowerPoint & Outlook. Knowledge of designing and developing training materials for training. A knowledge of CMS. Knowledge of software support”

As far as I was concerned, this requirement for “knowledge” of this level could only be gained from experience – something that is outside the JobBridge guidelines in advertising an internship and on the 4th of May, I contacted JobBridge, via the contact form on their site, to raise the issue with them. A screengrab of that contact is posted here:

Twenty days later (yes, twenty), on May 24th, I received an email reply from the JobBridge office referring to my mail and admitting that “[t]he request for a ‘Knowledge of delivering training/teaching in Word, Excel,PowerPoint & Outlook. Knowledge of designing and developing training materials for training. A knowledge of CMS. Knowledge of software support” is required’ is not permitted under the guidelines of the Scheme”. The email went on to say that they “regret that the application was approved in error and has now been amended following a discussion with the Host Organisation“. The full text of the email can be seen here:

Since it seemed quite clear to me that the real intentions of the Host Organisation had been revealed in the original advert, I was sceptical that any inexperienced and qualified person, for whom the JobBridge scheme was intended to assist, would have any chance of getting the internship. Nevertheless, I was interested to see what the “updated” advert would list among its ‘requirements’ for the position.

While the description of the internship had remained unchanged, the Skills Requirement of the updated advert now included the following details:

The ideal intern should be proficient in: Organising Training Programmes. Speaking to large groups of people. Delivering Presentations. And have an interest and understanding of Social Media.”

Screengrab of ‘amended’ JobBridge advert here:

Once again, it seemed clear that UCC were, in fact, looking for someone experienced and proficient in delivering IT training but I resisted the temptation to contact JobBridge again.

The problem here seems to be the fact that JobBridge is only concerned with the adverts on their websites following their guidelines on not mentioning experience, but conveniently ignoring the intentions of the Host Organisation to ‘hire’ someone for free to work as an intern. This was similarly the case with the House of Ireland controversy yesterday and once again, highlights how JobBridge is now failing the very sector that the scheme was intended to help. The front page of the JobBridge website claims that “[t]he aim of the National Internship Scheme is to assist in breaking the cycle where jobseekers are unable to get a job without experience, either as new entrants to the labour market after education or training or as unemployed workers wishing to learn new skills. The scheme will also give people a real opportunity to gain valuable experience to bridge the gap between study and the beginning of their working lives“, however recent events seem to suggest that employers are now using JobBridge, not as a way of giving graduates and the inexperienced an opportunity to bulk up their CV and learn new skills, but in fact as a free employment service.

It could be suggested that some Host Organisations have no intention of hiring someone recently graduated or inexperienced, but are simply using JobBridge as a means of recruiting a free, experienced intern for up to nine months at no cost to themselves.

When the issue of JobBridge adverts requiring interns with experience, was raised in the Dáil on June 12th by Fianna Fáil TD, Robert Troy, (as a written question No. 306 [28398/12]), Minister for Social Protection, Joan Burton responded:

Host Organisations are not permitted to advertise an internship that specifies a requirement for interns to have prior experience in order to avail of the internship on offer.  The JobBridge team check all internship advertisements to ensure that the request for prior experience does not appear on Internship advertisements.  If an internship was to be advertised in error requesting jobseekers to have prior experience in order to apply the JobBridge team would amend immediately once the error is highlighted.  I would ask the Deputy to please highlight any specific examples that he may have to the JobBridge unit and these matters will be investigated immediately

[Screen grab of the Dáil question and Minister Response can be seen below]

 

To me, it seems that Minister Burton is missing the point. Amending the offending JobBridge advert so that the request for prior experience does not appear, does nothing to increase the chances of a graduate or an inexperienced job-seeker getting the opportunity. It simply means that the Host Organisation doesn’t get caught out like the House of Ireland did yesterday, while the graduate struggling for an opportunity to gain some work experience, still loses out to the more experienced candidate (even if it is only for an internship position).

How widespread this practise of “amending” JobBridge adverts that fall foul of the JobBridge guidelines is anyone’s guess, but it seems to be a convenient way of undermining the spirit of the JobBridge scheme and further reduces the opportunities for recent graduates and inexperienced job-seekers.

Indeed, on the Small Business Can website forum, one small business owner talks about advertising an internship position, but that it got ‘turned down’. Upon contacting JobBridge, this small business owner was told to “beef up the ‘what the intern will get from the process’ [section of the advert]” , and that once the advert was “tweaked”, it subsequently got approved.

 See exchange here: http://bit.ly/N8mB3t and screengrab of comment below:

All in all, the level of monitoring of the JobBridge scheme needs to be overhauled – starting at the advertisements themselves and working right the way through to on site monitoring of interns, feedback and evaluation of the scheme. As it stands, most interns never hear from FÁS/SOLAS/JobBridge for the duration of their internship until the internship is about to end. Meanwhile, the employer has to complete monthly “compliance” checks to confirm:

  • The intern’s attendance continues in compliance with the Standard Internship Agreement
  • The internship is being delivered as described by the host organisation, and in accordance with the Standard Internship Agreement

  • Actual finish date (if different from the due finish date).

There is little protection, if any, afforded to the intern over the course of the 6 or 9 months – the scheme seems to be failing those that it was designed to help the most and somewhat inevitably, has been used by employers as a cheap recruitment tool and to indirectly subsidize their business.

The long-term implications of the JobBridge scheme have yet to be realised but the widespread use and abuse of the scheme is damaging both its reputation, for those availing of internships, and damaging the jobs market, as the concept of unpaid internships becomes normalised within industry sectors.

Rather than blindly hailing JobBridge as a success, using convenient statistics without the accompanying data, the Department of Social Protection needs to wake up to the realities of introducing such a widespread and subsidized internship scheme and acknowledge the real success and failures of the initiative.

@dbdolehead

JobBridge monitoring – and THAT House of Ireland internship

There was an online kerfuffle yesterday and today as it emerged that e-retailer House of Ireland had recently advertised for Web Developer intern through the JobBridge scheme. While there is nothing unusual in this, and indeed House of Ireland is perfectly entitled to avail of interns through this scheme, the controversy arose over the advertisement for the internship, not on the JobBridge website, but on an independent jobs listing website, Jobs.ie

First, let us start with the JobBridge internship as it was advertised on the JobBridge site itself. While the listing has now been withdrawn, pending an investigation, I have uploaded a screengrab of the original advert as posted on JobBridge here:

This advert complies with JobBridge guidelines on advertising internships which state that “no mention of experience or preferred experience is allowed” as the object of the JobBridge scheme is to provide jobseekers with relevent experience to improve their chances of gaining employment.

For the record, the Skills Requirement section of this advert listed as requirements: “Highly motivated and willing to learn; ability to work in LAMP environment with content management systems and/or ecommerce platforms; should be confident in ability to build a website from start to finish using Content Management Systems (CMS). Demonstrate experience with PHP and MySQL. Ability to develop add-ons / modifications to the CMS and to work with source code

The problem subsequently arose with the advert for the same JobBridge internship that was listed on the Jobs.ie website (which has also been removed) This advert had quite specific requirements for the intern applying for the position, in direct contravention to the JobBridge guidelines. A screengrab of this internship listing is posted here:

The most striking thing about this advert is the extensive list of experience the ideal candidate would have, including:

  • At least 3 years’ experience in application and web based development
  • Excellent knowledge of PHP 5  and MySQL.  Strong programming capability and ability to upgrade and maintain back-end functionality
  • Online experience of customising open source e-commerce platforms – in particular experience of Magento would be a distinct advantage
  • Experience of front-end web design (page layout, promotional images & banners) with portfolio examples
  • Web testing experience: usability, security, fixing bugs etc

It is worth remember two points at this juncture:

  1. This intern would receive a €50 per week allowance on top of their existing social welfare entitlement, payable by the Department of Social Protection. There is zero cost to the Host Organisation/Employer when advertising the position on JobBridge or when hiring the intern and ultimately there is no requirement that a job offer would follow the 6 or 9 month internship.
  2. There is currently a skills shortage in Ireland for skilled and experienced IT professionals, particularly in the field of web development – meaning that most web developers who would meet the criteria outlined by House of Ireland in their Jobs.ie listing would already have a decent chance of gaining paid employment without having to resort to JobBridge.

On occasion, there have been JobBridge internships advertised on various websites, outside of the FÁS spectrum, but in general, these adverts have contained the same wording/format as the “official” advert on JobBridge.ie . This is the first instance, that I have noticed, where a completely different advert for the same internship has appeared online, and has side-stepped the JobBridge guidelines on mentioning experience.

 Interestingly, on the JobBridge site itself, it has an instruction leaflet on advertising an internship in which it states that the Host Organisation “may also advertise the placement on [their] own website” but there is no mention of listing the internship on other jobs sites. This is possibly a grey area that JobBridge could indeed work on, however it would be unrealistic to expect the FÁS staff to monitor listings on all jobs sites for compliance with their guidelines.

At any rate, one would hope that Host Organisations would be grateful for the opportunity to take on an intern, cost-free, for up to 9 months and that they would do so in the spirit that JobBridge was intended. Greater monitoring of the situation is required by FÁS/Solas as the number of dubious “internships” begins to mount and once again, the scheme takes a battering in the online opinion stakes.

In reaction to the online furore, House of Ireland have tweeted to say that the Jobs.ie advert was “posted in error” but that both adverts have now been removed and that the matter is being reviewed internally.

[Update 5:45pm]

The House of Ireland have tweeted that posting the advert on the Jobs.ie website was an “Error due to poor decision making, lack of care or poor communication …or a combination of all 3. Being investigated internally

@dbdolehead

JobBridge Evaluation Form – Intern’s Feedback

Since I’ve recently completed my 9 month JobBridge internship, I can now reveal the process involved as the internship draws to a close…

For most, this will be the first, last and only time that the intern will have any direct contact from FÁS since their JobBridge internship started and it will come in the form of a text message alerting them to the fact that their internship is about to come to an end and to fill in their evaluation form. To be honest, after working full time for 39 weeks for just a measly €50 allowance on top of my social welfare, I can safely assume that most interns won’t need to be reminded that their JobBridge internship is coming to an end…there will be a countdown already ongoing to the release date.

So FÁS texts the intern to say that:

  1.  their JobBridge internship is drawing to a close,
  2. the Host Organisation has been notified of the end date
  3. the Host Organisation has been reminded to provide the intern with a reference (there’s a standard template provided with the Standard Agreement) and
  4. the intern should fill out the Evaluation Form and email it back to the JobBridge office.

The JobBridge Evaluation Form that the intern fills out and returns is attached here:

JobBridge Evaluation Form – Intern

Apparently, there is also an accompanying evaluation form that is filled out by the Host Organisation or Mentor, offering their perspective on the JobBridge experience.

To those wondering what sort of information FÁS are gathering about the successes and experiences of those partaking in JobBridge, this evaluation form is the extent of it, as far as the majority of interns as concerned.

With thousands of internships already completed, information relating to these interns’ experience of the scheme should already be available as these feedback forms are converted into raw data. One can only assume that the Department of Social Protection is waiting for a report on the scheme from private consultants, Indecon International Economic Consultants, who were contracted to provide this service under a tender advertised last year.

Regardless, this evaluation form offered me the only chance to comment on the scheme in a personal capacity and in the hope that someone at JobBridge or FÁS would take on board my concerns.

Advice for a JobBridge intern …

A reader of my blog recently posted the following comment on one of my pages. I decided to include it in a new post so that I could answer the question properly, offer as much advice as I could and request other readers to contribute if they wanted.

cathyk123: I’m currently on a jobbridge internship but i’m not liking it i was wondering if anyone could help me out by answering a few questions please?? i’m doing 4 days a week and hate going in there everyday i feel sick to my stomach going in there, i wish i hadn’t accept it in the first place. i want to know if anyone has had a similar experience and how they dealt with it. as i’m quite a shy unconfrontational person i’m afraid to bring us the issue with my mentor. i’m afraid that if i leave i will get cut off the dole. i just don’t feel like i fit in there. they are all high powered driven types and im so afraid i’ll make a mistake and screw the whole place up lol. please someone help me?”

Right, first things first – participation in JobBridge is not a condition of you receiving your dole. Should you finish your current JobBridge internship early, this should have no impact on your social welfare entitlements. If you leave, your dole will not be cut off arbitrarily – you will obviously lose the €50 additional weekly JobBridge allowance, but the rest of your social welfare should be the same as before you started the internship. See point No. 16 here from the FAQ section of the JobBridge website. Leaving the internship should be relatively straightforward – you inform your host organisation you’re leaving, they log onto the JobBridge system and sign you off it, you go to your social welfare office and inform them that you’re no longer on the JobBridge internship scheme and they’ll explain when you’ve to sign on and collect your dole again.

If you wish to confirm this with JobBridge, they have a contact form on their website and generally reply promptly. You could simply enquire as to the procedure for finishing your internship early, and confirm that your dole payments will continue as before without interruption.

Now, once you’re reassured that your dole payments won’t be affected by any decision to continue/quit your internship you need to deal with the issue as soon as possible! Believe me, I previously worked for a company for three years and for my last year there – I dreaded going into work and eventually packed it in and went back to college. There is nothing worse than hating your job and not wanting to get up out of bed every morning and trust me – it’s not worth it, and it is definitely not worth it when you’re on an internship. Life is too short to waste in a position where you’re not happy – the JobBridge internship should be of benefit to the intern and be a positive and worthwhile experience.

Remember – you’re an intern … you’re there to learn, you’re not expected to have the professional experience of some of your colleagues. Recognise you’re own role and value within the company – you applied for the internship, the company (presumably) interviewed you and chose you to join their team. So you have something they want, it is now up to them to provide a learning and professional environment for you to gain experience. Don’t forget that you’re costing the company nothing, and I can assure you that the place will not fall down when you leave, and in the same way – you need to relax, you’re not going to cause any catastrophic mistake that will take down the company. There are controls, checks, procedures and senior management in place to take responsibility for whatever decisions are made and you only play a small role so don’t be worrying about doing something wrong – that’s all part of the learning process.

So take a deep breath, steel yourself for the conversation and approach somebody who may be in a position to help! Be that in the form of a short email to your mentor asking for a quick word in the afternoon (or even a chat with someone more senior, or just a friendly face who may be able to help). Then its simply a matter of stating that you’re not sure that you’re fitting in with the company, that the internship is not quite what you expected and that you’re not sure that you wish to stay on. Most people at this stage would try to help sort through the issues with you, perhaps proposing moving onto a different project etc. but you can be confident in the knowledge that your dole will not be affected should you wish to leave the internship. It may be worth giving the company a chance for another week or so to see if things improve after your initial chat – I appreciate you may be a little reserved and unsure about talking about it to your mentor, but just go for it – things can’t improve if they don’t know about how you’re feeling! The chat could hopefully be more conversational without being confrontational so there mightn’t be anything to worry about.

As for the “high powered driven types” who work there – don’t mind them, you’re the intern – you’ve every right to work there and it can happen on occasion that colleagues are sometimes unsure as to how to treat the intern (either as an equal professional, like a work experience student or as a lowly intern). So give them a chance, make an effort to chat with them – believe it or not – they started out like you at some stage in their career so they’ve all gone through this before you.

I would imagine that what you’re feeling is relatively normal particularly amongst graduates who progress into the workplace. Your first professional job can be a daunting and exhausting experience – made doubly hard in this situation since you’re not even receiving a full week’s pay for your work. It can take time to settle in, the workplace is never like how it looks on television and you never seem to be doing the work you thought you’d be doing when you start – but eventually you get there!

The one single thing I hope you take from this (long and rambling) response is this: DO SOMETHING ABOUT THE SITUATION, and DO IT NOW!! Nothing’s going to improve until you take the first step and you’ll never get back those weeks of your life that you spent dreading going to work. You only get 9 months in total on the JobBridge scheme so should you leave, you always have the opportunity to complete the remainder of your 9 months balance with another company.

Be positive, be confident and just go for it!

 

JobBridge … An insider’s perspective

I attach below, a recent summation of one desperate jobseeker’s experience of JobBridge, the National Internship Scheme.

Some details have been blacked out in order to preserve the anonymity of the contributor, who seems to have a positive experience of their own internship but has some comments to make on the issues surrounding the implementation of the scheme.

Its a short document and quite an excellent summary of the main points of criticisms surround the initiative.

The view from the other side of the JobBridge

The main points:

  • Great in theory, Poor in Practice

Personally, I think the JobBridge scheme is an excellent initiative but poorly executed. The issues regarding access, monitoring and management of the scheme are inexcusable and should be easily rectified.  Partly this stems from the organisation overseeing the JobBridge Scheme: FÁS/Solas – their remit for years was the facilitating of training and apprenticeships for trades and the personnel have not moved on in terms of offering services for graduates or the recently unemployed in the professional sector. The staff, therefore, seem inexperienced and ill-equipped to manage and vet a portfolio of requests for free interns from industries, SMEs, multi-nationals and companies across all sectors/professions/services/trades in Ireland. There is no focus or direction in sourcing or supplying quality internships for this scheme but it seems primarily a numbers game – on a JobBridge internship means not on the dole figures.

  • What is an Internship?

The perception of what an internship entails needs to be radically altered via proper vetting of the internships on offer and consistent monitoring of interns once their placement starts. Universities and colleges have been offering work placements in industry for years, successfully seeking appropriate companies and placing students in an environment that will lead to their professional development. An internship is neither the equivalent of a Transition Year student on work experience nor a free employee for the benefit of the employer. It should lead to the professional development of the intern, with respect to their qualifications and aspirations and be structured so that the employer is not the only one gaining from the internship. While certain jobs will enable the personal development of the employee/intern in terms of their ability to manage time/resources, work as a team, work on their own initiative, take direction etc – these roles did not necessarily lead to professional development of the person’s qualifications and could be learned in any employment situation. The JobBridge initiative, therefore, needs to ensure that the focus remains on offering quality internships that not only develop an intern’s interpersonal skills, but also their professional skills – thereby improving their chances of securing future employment. Judging by the majority of adverts on the JobBridge site (and as highlighted online – shelf stackers, car valet, call centre staff,etc) there is little to suggest that there is any effort to weed out internships that will be of any professional benefit to job seekers, other than offering free employees to exploitative businesses.

  • Monitoring of Scheme

Note there is no management, monitoring, communication or contact between FÁS/Solas and the JobBridge intern throughout the internship – unless the intern actually contacts the agency, then there are no checks or assurances that the intern is gaining the type of experience initially advertised, leaving the intern open to exploitation doing work that is of no benefit to them.

  • Displacement of Jobs

The issue surrounding displacement of staff is contentious and difficult to prove. JobBridge is surely having an impact on the availability of work (both part-time and full time) to a broad sector of people – from students looking for part-time work in the local shop/café/filling station to the self employed, small contractor (such as web design experts, journalists, accountants etc). When every JobBridge advert is posted the question needs to be asked, “What would this company do if there was no JobBridge scheme?”. If the answer is ‘Hire a (part-time) employee, contractor’ etc then surely this is job displacement as the company uses JobBridge for its own benefit.

  • The JobBridge Brand

The continued exploitation of the JobBridge scheme by companies seeking free employees for unskilled positions undermines the reputation of the initiative. I would be worried that JobBridge is becoming a by-word for tea-making, photocopying skivvy and the mockery of the scheme would devalue its impact on your CV. The reputation of the scheme needs to be preserved so that future employers can be confident of the experiences the intern gained on the JobBridge scheme.

  • Access

In terms of access, JobBridge is currently restricted to those on certain social welfare payments for at least three months. It therefore excludes lone parents, those on disability allowances and also recently graduated students from an initiative that should benefit all of the unemployed who are seeking work.

  • A lot done, more to do

Everyone needs to think smarter with these jobs strategies. The government needs to incentivise employment for businesses, FÁS/Solas needs to appreciate the demographic of current job-seekers and job-seekers need to be smarter in their approach to job hunting.

JobBridge Intern Standard Agreement

I’ve attached below the standard agreement that every JobBridge Intern must sign along with their Host Organisation (Employer) at the start of their internship – it sets out the terms and conditions of the internship for the six or nine month period.

JobBridge Standard Agreement

There are various references to how the intern fits in with corresponding Health and Safety legislation, tax law, employer’s liability insurance etc as well as the all importatn €50 per week allowance.

Sign this – and you’re signed into (up to) nine months of an internship where hopefully you’ll gain the experiences and skills that’ll make you ‘more employable’ at its conclusion.

Tender: Consultancy support to Evaluate the JobBridge National Internship Scheme

Update: The Deadline date for companies wishing to tender for the role of consultant of the evaluation of the JobBridge National Internship Scheme was changed from 30th November to 9th December.

(Note extensions of time like this on requests for tender can occur for a number of reasons – such as there being a large number of questions and points of clarification being issued to those tendering, or alternatively, there being a slow uptake from interested companies and those issuing the tender extend the deadline in the hope that more companies will compete for the contract.)

There was also a list of Questions and Answers posted on the e-tenders website featuring questions by companies wishing to tender for the job and the associated answers from the Department of the Environment. This Q&A document is posted below:

JobBridge Answers to Questions received in respect of RFT

Basically it seems that the Department of Social Protection have no hesitation at passing along personal details of JobBridge interns along to the third party company who’s collating this information. Not only that but the Department of Social Protection doesn’t seem too keen to reveal, at this stage, how much money it’s going to spend on this “review”.

———————————————————————————————————————————-

The Department of Social Protection has recently tendered for consultancy support to evaluate the JobBridge National Internship Scheme. I have attached below the request for tender information as posted on the e-tenders website which outlines the requirements of the successful consultant.

(Note: this document is freely available on e-tenders website once the user is registered)

RFT for Review of JobBridge

Top Tips for getting your dole sorted

Here are a couple of tips I’ve picked up along the way – they’re not a definitive guide to accessing social welfare but things you should remind yourself of when starting this process…

  • Go straight into the social welfare office the day you’re unemployed

The first visit to the dole office may be the most intimidating (there are queues, ticketing systems, cubicles, plastic seating etc), but it starts you on your way to getting your social welfare sorted. Plus social welfare payments are back-dated, meaning that even though it might be a couple of weeks before you get your first payment, you will be on the system and paid from when you first made contact.

This visit will allow you to get your name on the system, ask a few questions about entitlements and make an appointment to meet with someone who can actually process your case. You will be given the application form to fill out for the next appointment as well as a list of documents that you’ll be required to bring with you on your next visit.

All you will need on this occasion is your PPS Number so they can check your details on their system.

  • Make friends with someone who has a photocopier

Believe me, keep a record of everything. That means photocopy all the forms you fill out, all the documents you intend to submit and anything else that you think the social welfare office might require when processing your claim. Oftentimes they will simply photocopy the original documentation themselves on your visit but its good practice to have a record of everything you submit…just in case.

  • Make friends with someone who has a printer

Since being on the dole effectively means claiming Jobseekers Benefit or Jobseekers Allowance – the important word here is Jobseeker! This means you should be actively seeking and available for employment. You may be asked to supply evidence that you are currently seeking work. Since most companies/agencies seeking advertising positions these days rarely respond to the deluge of applications, it can be difficult getting written responses to job applications. If all else fails, print off the application letters you sent in and explain the situation at the dole office. If using online job search websites (such as Irishjobs.ie) they often send a confirmation email once the application has been submitted so printing this email confirmation should suffice as proof that you are actively seeking work.

  • Research your entitlements online

While it may be initially overwhelming and confusing, there is plenty of information available online to those wanting answers about their entitlements. Websites such as the Department of Social Protection  and the Citizens Information have details about social welfare, signing on and the various other entitlements for the unemployed. It pays to be informed.

  • Apply immediately for any other entitlements you may be able to avail of

The dole office only deals with social welfare payments, so you will need to find your local community welfare officer to apply for payments that are dealt with by the HSE. Most of these, such as rent allowance etc, are not backdated so the earlier you apply the better. I’ll deal with applying for rent allowance in another post.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 257 other followers