With Joan “the Moan” Bruton permanently gloating over the success of this scheme and little by way of regulation, it’s vital people start to speak out.
Much of the mainstream media coverage of the various work placement initiatives, including the controversial National Internship Scheme, has focused on the opinions of policy makers. Sure RTE might roll out the odd grateful recipient to give grovelling sound bites about what a great break the whole thing is. But the judgement calls, printed in the press and interviewed on TV, are the domain of pundits and experts. Yet, take even a minute to trawl through a forum like boards.ie or even your own Facebook network, and you’ll find plenty of folk have had little other choice than to take up these positions or have little interest in taking them up because they are seen as exploitative. We decided to mount a wee survey. While there is recognition of potential benefits that these schemes offer, such as worthwhile experiences, in general what we came across was negative .
Recent graduates from an increasingly corporate university system vent their frustration at being sold employment illusions. The situation is worse for those in junior professional roles, one of the groups hit hardest by the recession. Already highly qualified, and often with years of experience, they face the choice between stagnating on the dole queue or working in their former professions for no pay. People without the privilege of third level education have to fight class biases which place middle-class university education at the apex of social status. While those who question these schemes are sometimes shot down as lazy or scrounging. Many of those that voiced their opinions are considering or planning to emigrate.
We decided to cut through the bullshit and print some real stories.
“I worked in an engineering internship for a well-known MNC. I lasted 3 months; the reason I left was because I found work in the UK. I was given little to do for the entire time and was made to feel small for not asking round constantly for work. My point of view was: why hire me if you don’t need me and are not paying me? The work I was given was menial and boring – I gained little in the way of real-world experience. From the outset I viewed the internship as something to talk about at interviews in England. I gave up pretty quickly on thinking it would help me find a job in Ireland. I think that while these internships do provide a sense of purpose and fill a gap on the CV, they have very little benefit in terms of helping the participant find paid work at the end of it all. After all, the country is fucked, and no amount of internships will change that!” Shelga, Boards.ie
“My WPP1 is actually good, as in my line manager and the rest of my unit have made a huge effort to be as inclusive as possible. This is partly because it is the public sector and the better organised labour means that they have to implement the scheme fairly else there would be war. However, its hard not to get cynical with the whole situation. Because of the ban on public sector recruitment there is no hope of a job at the end of it, the best I can hope for is good experience. Even then nine months on top of the three years I already have isn’t going to give me much more of an edge in the current economic climate. My profession was closely linked to the construction boom, with the resulting mass redundancies. I’m competing against people with twenty years experience who have ran companies. Realistically who are you going to hire?”
“I Applied for a job as a site engineer through FAS and the WPP. From the job description it was basic enough, I just wanted to keep myself abreast of construction practices and not be at home all the time. My application was accepted. Met with the site manager, who was very happy with my CV. I asked who I would be reporting to on site as I thought I would be a junior engineer, seeing as how I was free. Told there and then by site manager that I would be replacing the outgoing engineer as I had enough experience for the job. I asked about it being a full time job with the company and was told ‘no, it would still be through the FAS WPP program.’ Basically they wanted a fully qualified engineer to run the site and didn’t want to pay. The job at that time ran a salary of 40,000 for the role. I was very frustrated and when I told FAS they just said they would look into it but nothing was done.”
Allan B, Dublin
“Our funding was always on a knife edge, with zero core support and as a community group. Not so long ago it really took a turn for the worst, and full time work was untenable. To keep the place afloat we all moved over to casual employment with a staffing agreement through our union. We always had volunteers, but now interns are used to shore up funding gaps. In tough times staff expressed huge loyalty, routinely going the extra mile with huge stress levels. Now, with so many people looking for experience, that loyalty’s thrown back at us and we’re sidelined. There’s also a new workaholic dedication expected. You have to prove you want whatever scraps of pay exist. Some of the others find themselves working as volunteers to train interns. It’s despicable and everyone is exploited. No one talks about it, its a dirty secret and a real indictment of the sectors funding crisis.”
John Ready, Dublin.