I welcome the launch of the Government’s new internship scheme, which will provide 5,000 places for people who are unemployed and are struggling to access the jobs market.

JobBridge, the new National Internship Programme, is a hugely welcome initiative, which will help thousands of people who feel stuck on the Live Register gain access to the jobs market. There are a huge number of very talented people who are out of work at present; this scheme will offer many of them the chance to get back on the ladder to full time employment.

Hundreds of companies have already expressed interest in the programme, ranging from semi-state bodies to multinational corporations. About 300 organisations have indicated that they will take on 1,000 interns between them. This is a hugely positive start and a strong sign that take-up for the scheme will be significant.

Anyone who has been on the Live Register for at least three months is eligible to apply for the scheme. Internships will run for six or nine months and the interns will receive an allowance of €50 a week, on top of their existing social welfare entitlements. This top-up will be covered by the Department of Social Protection, meaning there will be no additional cost for employers.

I am encouraging job seekers and employers across County Clare to check out this new scheme. It will be hugely beneficial for participants on both sides. For job seekers, the programme offers invaluable hands-on experience and access to contacts and references that can only enhance the possibility of securing full time employment. And for the companies involved, the scheme allows them to bring talented and enthusiastic individuals into their organisation. I would be hopeful that many of the interns who are taken on will become full time employees in the long run.

The scheme is just the sort of labour activation measure that has been so badly needed for those on the Live Register. The previous Fianna Fail Government made empty promises about creating placements which never materialised. But this scheme is a reality and, from this Friday, prospective interns will be able to go online and check out the range of places up for grabs. Interested parties can log on to www.jobbridge.ie now for more information.”