A National Internship Scheme has been launched by Taoiseach Enda Kenny in Dublin.

The two-year JobBridge programme will offer work placements to 5,000 people who are on the Live Register.

The jobs will be offered in a range of companies in the private, public, community and voluntary sector.

So far 500 companies have expressed an interest in taking part and have offered 1,000 places.

They include the Quinn Group, Smurfit Kappa, Mercury Engineering and Aer Lingus.

The placements will last between six and nine months and participants will be paid €50 extra a week on top of their existing social welfare payments.

They will retain all of their additional benefits and it is open to anyone who has been signing-on for at least three months.

Companies offering places must have at least one full-time employee and the intern cannot displace an existing worker.

Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton has said those availing of the initiative would not be exploited.

The scheme begins on 1 July.

The initiative has been welcomed by business groups Chambers Ireland and IBEC.

Ian Talbot Chambers Ireland Chief Executive said: 'This will enable participants to gain invaluable work-place experience while also contributing to the operation of the business.

'It is hoped that many of these companies will in turn be able to offer employment opportunities as result.'

IBEC Director General Danny McCoy said it will be promoting the scheme among its members.

Mr McCoy said: 'The scheme provides those seeking employment with the chance to gain valuable work experience, maintain close links with the labour market and enhance their skills. We strongly support it.'