As always, many thanks to the submitter for their story. This is a particularly egregious case of exploitation as well as very clearly showing that JobBridge is being used as a job replacement tool. Worst of all, it highlights the galling attitudes of JobBridge employers towards interns. Solidarity with anyone who finds themselves in a situation like this.
My experience with JobBridge began last year. I started an IT course in October 2014, with the last three months set aside for work experience. Despite the fact that they primarily seemed to be training us for call centre jobs, I enjoyed it and learned a lot in a relatively short period of time. For work experience, I applied for and interviewed with a small web hosting company (one room office with just 4 other workers, including the bosses).
Everything went well and the company offered to take me on for the three months. This company, I realised, was actually three companies in one. After a few weeks, it became apparent that my responsibilities equaled that of a full-time employee. In addition to coding, a little customer support and digital marketing, I enabled them to offer clients a service (content writing) which they previously hadn’t before I joined. You can be sure they charged a bundle for that.
As well as this, part of my work entailed travelling to the offices of our clients and training them in how to use their websites. The company was busy, and getting busier as time went on, causing the amount of work on our plates to pile up. I was mostly left to my own devices and had to deal with a lot of issues by myself, as the others were too busy to help. As my three months at the company drew to an end, I stupidly hoped that they would consider keeping me on – even for low pay, or part time – anything! The bosses were happy with my work, they seemed to be doing well and we all got along. Then one day, I was called for a chat in the board room. This could be a good sign, I thought.
The boss explained that there is a place for me and my skills at the company. Great! Imagine my disappointment, then, when the boss asked me to stay on… as a JobBridge intern. I asked him for how long, hoping that it would just be the six month option, but he said nine. That would mean that I’d be working at this company for an entire year without pay. What could I do but accept the offer. I had been applying for other jobs, but to no avail. With my travel expenses to work amounting to around €25 per week, the extra JobBridge money didn’t make a huge difference, but it was something, at least.
The months went by and my workload increased. Soon, I was designing entire websites and providing more training sessions with clients. Despite the fact that a company with 1-10 employees can only have 1 intern, this organisation can take up to 3, because technically they are 3 companies. Having said that, the work I do is largely spread across the 3 companies. So, they decided to take on another intern. That’s 2 interns in a room of 6 people. One memory that sticks out in my mind after this intern was taken on is of catching sight of one boss’s computer screen.
He was chatting on Skype with one of the other bosses and they were talking about needing someone to stay late that evening. One of them suggested that they ask the other intern to do so, and joked ‘Sure we pay him enough! hahaha!’ Because the internship scheme is a joke to them. Plain and simple. And I don’t completely blame them for using it to their advantage. This same intern was given the job of painting our new office before we moved in, because he used to be a professional painter before getting into IT.
I’m sure I’ve forgotten lots of other problems too! I work over 40 hours a week – which is against JobBridge rules – and my boss has discouraged me from telling our clients that I’m an intern. ‘If you think of yourself as an intern then you won’t get anywhere’ he told me once, thinking that he was paying me a compliment by categorising me as an actual employee. Sorry, but as long as I’m not getting paid, then I’m an intern. He also often jokes about how I’m always in work on the button and leave at exactly 5:30 – basically suggesting that I should stay longer to show my commitment.
Give me strength. I have two months left in this neverending internship, but continue to apply for jobs. Apologies for sending you this rant. I support what you’re doing and hope you’ll continue to bring awareness to this mess. Take care and thanks.
PS. Fun fact, I could barely afford the bus to work today.