70 JobBridge interns have worked for periods of up to nine months in College since August 2011, Trinity News has learned.
Out of the 70 interns that have commenced internships with Trinity through the programme, 25 are currently active in their placements. To date, only 15 interns have obtained employment within College directly after the end of their internships.
In response to a query from Trinity News last week, the Communications Office said that “the vast majority of interns taken on by Trinity have been in research laboratories located both on campus and in St. James’s Hospital. Trinity College Dublin has mostly hired interns on a ‘Research Assistant’ capacity.”
It stated that interns employed by College have benefitted from working in areas as diverse as the School of Psychology, the Department of Clinical Medicine, the School of Dental Sciences, the Discipline of Radiation Therapy, the Department of Zoology, the GeneSIS project, and Student Counselling.
As Trinity qualifies as a large host organisation, it has been granted a maximum of 200 internship places under the JobBridge programme. Trinity News understands that College has advertised a total of 112 internships out of its quota of 200 positions since August 2011.
The JobBridge scheme was due to come to an end on 30th June, 2013, but has been extended with no current fixed end date. The Department of Social Protection has also recently announced that host organisations in the education sector may take on interns during the summer months if they are in a position to offer a quality internship.
The last JobBridge placement advertised by College was for a nine month administrative internship in the School of Dental Science. According to the post – which was created on 24th February but has since been removed – the successful applicant will gain practical experience in “filing, minute taking,” “multi-tasking, prioritising, organising, attention to detail, computer use,” and “experience of a busy office environment, working to deadlines and managing workloads.”
According to College, however, only a minority of placements are in administration. In most of these cases, it states, “a third level qualification was not necessary within the internship specification”.
The claim is not at odds with past JobBridge adverts uncovered by Trinity News.
In an advert posted in January, for instance, College sought a research assistant in breast cancer to process blood and samples from breast cancer patients in the Department of Surgery at James’s Hospital. The intern was required to have a BSc in biological sciences or a relevant discipline.
Another advert for a mental health research associate in August asked that applicants have a third-level degree in health sciences, sociology or psychology.
In February, College sought an unemployed graduate of psychology, social studies, or OT to help run the Parlour Project as part of a “community development” programme. The successful candidate, the advert in question stated, “must be outgoing and tenacious, and will require excellent written and verbal communication, adherence to strict confidentiality policy, ability to design promotional materials ideally, strong interest in volunteer management/community development, flexible approach, and basic MS Office skills.”
In a statement to Trinity News, Caoimhe Ni Lochlainn, Trinity press officer, said that “a substantial number [of interns] went onto outside employment connected to their JobBridge/Trinity experience and the reference they gain, as did a number of interns go onto start scholarships here at Trinity College and elsewhere.”
She said that the experience has been a positive one for both mentors and interns, and cited one mentor as having commented:‘’I think JobBridge is excellent. The interns are committed and keen to learn. As they are working in an environment that promotes education, I think they can really pick up new skills and experience.” The intern this particular mentor worked with “went onto to gain a good internship-related position in an outside organisation”.
Tom Lenihan, SU president, told Trinity News he was shocked by the figures. “Trinity’s role in Irish society should be to lead by example, to employ people in the right way,” he said. “We claim to be re-imagining our identity when what we actually stand for now is the exploitation of workers.”
In a statement to Trinity News, the Department of Social Protection said it could does not comment on the operation of JobBridge with individual host organisations. However, it said: “JobBridge is a voluntary scheme. Interns choose to participate and choose the host organisation they wish to work for. The success of the scheme is entirely dependent upon host organisations offering internship opportunities. However, host organisations may not offer as internship opportunities positions that could otherwise be filled by paid employees. This inevitably means that not all host organisations will employ all of the interns working with them.”
The statement continues: “JobBridge internships are providing effective and high quality real-workplace experience to break the cycle where the unemployed, even those with good vocational or academic qualifications have difficulty securing employment without demonstrable work experience. The exceptional rates of progression into employment, even among public sector interns, show that the benefits of the development and experience that interns gain in public sector host organisations facilitate them in gaining employment either with their host organisation or with another employer. The Department monitors JobBridge internships rigorously to prevent any displacement of paid employment, to ensure that the internship provides appropriate training and development experience, and that appropriate mentoring and support is provided to the intern.”