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Why Work Experience Is Worth It

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JAMEELA JAMIL
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It upsets me when I hear statistics about how many young people are out of work - almost a million 16 to 25 year olds if you didn't know. And it's not just moral outrage. Yes, the figure is staggering and unacceptable. But what really bothers me is a nagging feeling that the longer this huge number is tossed around, the more normal it will seem - like part of the landscape. We can never let that happen.

There was a time when I was young and unemployed, struggling to start my career. During my A-Levels I was hit by a car which shattered my bones and left me confined to my bedroom for a year. Weirdly, it was the best thing that ever happened to me. It gave me a new perspective and a lot of time to re-evaluate myself and what I was doing with my life. Instead of going back to school I decided, there and then, to commit myself to getting a job and making a start on a career. The world of work just seemed so much more interesting to me and I wanted to experience it as soon as possible.

Along the way, I learned a lot about being told I didn't have the right skills for the jobs I wanted, and how to overcome the setbacks and keep pushing forward. This is why I've become an Ambassador for LifeSkills, a programme created by Barclays to help one million young people get the skills they need for work. I'd like to use my experience to inspire young people to stay positive, to reassure them that things will get better and pass on some of the advice and tips that others gave me when I was starting out.

Something I can't stress enough is the massive importance of work experience. It's the only way to find out what work is really like when you're figuring out what path to take and to get an understanding of what it takes to achieve your career ambitions. Some young people can rely on a privileged background and great connections to get work experience, but I don't believe anybody can be guaranteed success nowadays. What really counts when you get in the door is enthusiasm and hard work. That might sound like a cliché, but standing out for being really motivated when you're on work experience is a great way to make connections and build a network that will lead on to bigger and better things.

Because work experience is so essential for building the confidence and skills that young people need to get ahead, we need more employers to reach out to young people to bring them on board. All the LifeSkills Ambassadors know young people need as much support as possible to get work experience and want to inspire businesses up and down the country to get involved.

To help raise awareness, this week the LifeSkills programme is launching an amazing competition for the Work Experience of a Lifetime. Young people will get the opportunity to travel to Facebook's HQ in California, learn how to run a Barclays Premier League Football Club with Karren Brady, learn how to launch a product with Thea Green at Nails Inc. or even learn how to be a broadcast presenter... with me! The competition is open to anyone aged between 14 and 19 and it's really easy to enter - just sign up by going to facebook.com/yourlifeskills.

The competition is now live. It closes on the 17 May. If you are one of the lucky winners then you'll go on the work experience of a lifetime sometime during the week of Monday, 17 June 2013.

I think it's an amazing opportunity to get involved with some of the most successful people and businesses in the world, who together want to help make getting into work a less daunting experience for young people.

Work experience can be life changing if you approach it with the right attitude. But there are a lot of young people who are missing out, which is why as a LifeSkills Ambassador I am determined to remind people just how important it is. Everyone needs to experience how brilliant and fascinating the world of work can be!

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