My name is Ava Patel, I'm 23 and I'm a campaigner for Channel 4's Battlefront.
I studied Journalism at university thinking it would be easy to walk into a job after my degree. Not that I was anything special but I thought there would be ample opportunity. No-one really told me whilst I was studying that it would be so tough, now I look back and wonder why.
I went to uni to develop my skills for a particular career in journalism but after I graduated I slowly started to realise it wasn't about your skills or enthusiasm but how much work experience you had. I struggled to get work experience as no-one would employ me and I started to lose faith in everything I had studied for three years.
Coming back home to Blackburn where there were few prospects for aspiring journalists put me in a sticky situation and I really started to struggle. I felt like every application I was making was being ignored and it felt like a barrage of doors being slammed in my face. I finally managed to get unpaid work at a local radio station to try and make my journalism dreams come true.
To sustain myself whilst I was working for free I started looking for jobs in supermarkets, shops and call centres, anywhere I could earn some money. The final blow came when a well-known supermarket rejected my application to stack shelves before I even had an interview. Being on benefits and getting odd unpaid shifts wasn't the lifestyle I wanted and when I landed a job in a call centre answering emergency calls I was over the moon that someone actually wanted to employ me.
I stayed there for a year, working part time so I could still apply for journalism jobs and then found what can only be described as "the job I dreamt about" working with Battlefront as a paid campaigner for three months.
So, the campaign to combat youth unemployment, that's what I'm doing. I remember trawling through Twitter one afternoon after work, angry that I was working somewhere I just didn't want to be and angry that none of my friends seemed to be getting their dream jobs either. I started to think about how we all had to expect less, when something caught my eye, it was an application form to be the next campaigner to combat youth unemployment. I remember thinking, "I know how that feels! I know how it feels to become angry with your own situation to the point where you feel like giving up! I HAVE to apply!" I did and got the job.
I will never forget how amazing it felt to be introduced into the office, to have my own official work email address and to be able to make myself and the rest of the team a cup of tea, small things that I appreciated so much because I knew I'd be doing something worthwhile that took me to my full potential. I was looking forward to waking up and being happy about the coming day instead of dreading it.
So far the campaign has been absolutely amazing. I'm heading the press and PR side of things and have to generate as much publicity as I can for our Campaign to Combat Youth Unemployment. As a gimmick. I have to pull together an unemployed choir that will drum up press coverage and will help take our message to the politicians to convince them to listen to young people's voices on the issue. I constantly see bad press about young people being "lazy" "unemployable" and "not ready to work" when for the majority of young individuals I know this simply isn't true. And this is the message I want to hammer home to the government.
I've met some inspiring people so far, including PR guru Max Clifford, who gave invaluable advice on how to get the most coverage for the campaign and I've been working with John Higginson, political editor of the Metro who will act as my personal mentor and help me along. He is constantly there to offer his support and counsel.
In my opinion, youth unemployment is no longer a problem, but a disaster. When I saw the Battlefront job advertised I was attracted to it because it was a chance to use my journalistic skills and tackle a subject that has had a huge impact on me. It's something that had me feeling pretty low for a long time and I don't think it's fair young people should have to lower their expectations just because their environment or the economic climate they live in isn't prospering. I'm tackling youth unemployment because young people today are quickly becoming disillusioned with their lives and ambitions.
Working with young people in the past through volunteer youth work made me realise just how much potential the youth of Britain have and it will be such a loss if these individuals become part of a lost generation. Something needs to be done. Fast.
Despite recent youth unemployment figures falling, there are still over one million 16-24 year olds out of work all over the UK. It's not enough just to blame the current economic situation when young people are suffering. Hopefully the most important thing that will come out of this campaign is for young people to find it easier to get a job and I think the government has a role to play in that.
They've committed over £1billion to tackle the issue but they need to make sure what they are doing works and that's why they need to listen to us. It'll be tough going but if we can get the government to pay attention we can bring about real change.
Support the campaign: http://battlefront.channel4.com/get-involved/petitions/battlefront-iv-petition