The publication of an evaluation of the national internship programme, JobBridge, by Indecon consultants, yesterday (1st May), provides some positive indications of progression to paid employment but improvements are required to prevent exploitation and job displacement, according to SIPTU Policy Researcher, Loraine Mulligan. The report states that by November 2012, 7,058 participants had completed an internship while a total of 12,560 had commenced since the scheme’s launch in June 2011.Based on survey information, Indecon estimates that 61.4% of participants currently have a job, five months after partaking in an internship under the scheme. However, only 45.2% have full-time permanent employment.  Of these 25.7% were employed in the host organisation; 12.4% had a job in the same sector while 23.3% had a job in another sector. SIPTU Policy Researcher, Loraine Mulligan, said: “This raises questions about the risk of interns being used merely as cheap labour by some employers who offer no job prospects but can avoid employing or paying a staff member at the industry-rate.  It is welcome that one of the report’s recommendations suggests that host organisations should have the option of directly paying the intern rather than relying on the current social welfare plus €50 top-up payment.  However, extending the duration of an internship to two years is unwarranted.  Young workers have a legitimate expectation of regular employment, especially after obtaining work-experience, rather than having to struggle to get by on a lengthy internship.”The report finds that a majority of participants are ‘satisfied’ or ‘very satisfied’ with their experience and consider they gained useful skills.  However, 22.3% of interns who responded to the survey were either dissatisfied or ‘very dissatisfied’.  44.5% of those surveyed did not complete the full duration of JobBridge. While this occurred for 63% because they secured employment, almost one third left due to dissatisfaction with the placement.Loraine Mulligan added: “Monitoring of the scheme should be strengthened. There is scope for abuse to slip through the cracks because the reporting mechanisms are relatively passive. This issue risks undermining the credibility of the scheme and requires attention, taking on board the concerns of trade unions. There is a broader problem of unpaid internships outside this scheme that are totally unregulated which must also urgently be addressed.”