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Graduates to get €50 plus dole to take internships

UNEMPLOYED professionals will be targeted in a massive government internship programme announced this week.

Newly qualified graduates and unemployed professionals will be offered a €50 payment on top of social welfare payments.

The Government-sponsored National Internship Scheme is to be rolled out in the coming days through state training agency FAS.

It will provide 5,000 work experience placements in the private, public and voluntary sectors over six to nine months.

Social networking giant Facebook and technology company Hewlett Packard are among companies who have signed up to take on the trainees.

However, worries that companies could use the initiative to displace existing employees have been quashed.

A strict rule of the scheme is that this scenario will not arise.

"The scheme administrator reserves the right to review cases where it is reported that this is the case," FAS said.

A spokeswoman for Joan Burton's Department of Social Protection told the Herald the posts will be open to graduates and non-graduates.

She described it as a website scheme -- to be launched on Wednesday -- in which employers and job hunters will log on to check opportunities.

Companies will be able to browse through the details of potential candidates and advertise vacant internships, while unemployed people will be able to search for openings at firms.

A database will link job placements to individuals with the right experience.

Companies will be able to take on between one and 200 interns, depending on how many employees they have.

The scheme is expected to cost the Exchequer €3m in 2011 and €13m next year.

Participants will receive in the region of €238 a week.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Ms Burton will launch the website for the initiative at Facebook's Dublin offices this week.

The programme is designed to offer jobseekers, who are on the live register and have been in receipt of jobseekers allowance or benefit for at least three months, the "opportunity to enhance their current skills and develop new ones".

The Government announced the scheme last month as a way of tackling the country's jobs crisis and providing training to those without work.

Among the criteria companies will need to fulfil if they are to be considered as "host organisations" includes a requirement to be "fully compliant" with workplace health and safety rules.

FAS has advised unemployed workers that they may be suitable for the scheme if they "want to develop new skills" and enhance their career prospects.

"The intern has to see if a placement is in the field they are interested in," the department spokeswoman said.

She added that it is "open to any host organisation to post a placement".

The latest figures show just under 300,000 people are formally classified as unemployed in Ireland.

Some 55pc of these were classified as long-term unemployed.

Just two years ago, only one in five of the jobless had been without work for a year or more.

The number of people on the live register, which measures those claiming unemployment benefit and includes some part-time workers, was almost 450,000 in May.