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Chinese restaurant looking for "interns". Lucky candidate will gain valuable experience in physical activities like "walking"

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The Irish Government's flagship internship-finding programme, Jobbridge.ie, has posted an internship listing for a waiter at a Chinese restaurant, prompting amusement and disbelief from summertime jobseekers around the country.

Amazingly, despite a feature-length newspaper article and a gone-viral Facebook status, the job description - at least at the time of writing - remains posted on the website.

The job prospectus says that the lucky intern will gain valuable real-world training in: "serving customers in restaurants and receiving clients or guests," as well as at  "Performing physical activities such as balancing, walking, lifting and handling of materials."

Whoever's crazy enough to take the job (give that after 44 days' listed the position remains unfilled this may be noone) will get a handsome salary of €50 ($62) a week in addition to retaining their social welfare benefits.

Those who feel up to the challenge are advised that they need to have attributes like steely "self control", "dependability" and (of course) "integrity" to land the vacancy.

The hapless "intern" will work a standard employee's 40 hour work week, while the listing adds, in the education section, that a Junior Certificate (rough equivalent: SAT Junior) is required to take the job.

This is a hilarious example of where the internship system falls flat on its face, but is unfortunately one of many less than life-changing internships I'm aware of that were listed on the JobBridge system.

The 'National Internship Scheme' as it's officially known, was launched by the Irish government last summer in response to a skills and training crisis within Irish society.

Employers weren't (still aren't) hiring, making it more difficult than ever before for young graduates to gain professional experience without having to leave the country.

Getting that first foothold on the career ladder is becoming only harder and harder for more graduates fresh out of college.

The government's solution to this was to conceive a kind of social-welfare supported national internship programme: all listings through JobBridge are guaranteed social welfare support (in the form of payment of the 'Dole', or Jobseekers' Allowance), while often also paying a nominal salary to those who undertake the internships.

There have been recent calls to include physiotherapists in the list of approved sectors for the programme, a call for the government to adopt  a similar programme for part-time jobs, and a policy being pushed by Fianna Fáil that would see 5,000 more places on the scheme made available to those under 25.

Unfortunately, the scheme has also been implicated in widespread abuse, such as the above example of a Chinese restaurant, as well as other internship offers that have gained the arrangement the moniker of the 'modern day slave trade' from some commentators.

'JobBridge To Nowhere' is a Tumblr blog whose express purpose is to collect - and expose - a series of other such internships of dubious value and legitimacy.

The blog has been keeping an eye on the programme almost since its inception last year, and has unearthed a series of startling listings from prominent Irish companies - among them household names, semi-States, and other public sector employees.

Ireland's national electricity provider apparently took (last winter) to masquerading all its currently available positions as 'internships', while one of the country's fastest-growing news websites, Broadsheet.ie, ran a screenshot of a 'packer' job ("the intern will gain practical experience in the area of household and office moving..") under the headline 'Getting Old Now'.

A Facebook page for disaffected young Irish 'interns' vowing to boycott JobBridge was also set up.

Another series of irreputable internships were highlighted by the far-right Socialist Party, in a transparent headline claiming, flatly, "Jobbridge is a scam". (The same question was asked by a more centrist blogger in an opinion piece for the Huffington Post).

Jobbridge looks to me like a good idea that has gone very badly wrong, or a Government-endorsed racket that no longer cares whether the 'opportunities' it offers young people really amount to anything worthwhile at all. The seeming total lack of moderation or vetting of internship opportunities posted doesn't send a positive message across.

I know, personally, of at least three interns who were unhappy with the kind of work they landed through the programme; judging by 'Jobbridge to Nowhere' and the Facebok page, there are undoubtedly countless more.

Ireland needs job creation and compelling alternatives to emigration for its college graduates, but a system of Government-endorsed slavery will only make a bad system worse.

While many internships can be valuable, career-edifying, and worthwhile experiences (my own internship at IrishCentral  two years ago was fantastic), the system is by its nature open to abuse, dominance of big business over desperate jobseekers, and unscrupulous employers who can package any kind of manual work as 'internships' in the name of taking on free labour.

Unfortunately JobBridge is beginning to seem like particularly obvious example of the latter; even if it was created by the Government.

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