I tried very hard to keep out of the work experience debate that’s been raging over the past few months as a result of the Government’s controversial Workfare scheme that (up until the u-turn last week) required young jobseekers to carry out “voluntary” work experience or face losing some of their benefit allowance.

Unpaid work experience – exploitation or necessary career advancement?

I was doing quite well until I read a great article in The Telegraph by Sainsbury’s Chief Executive Justin King, which was titled, “Don’t let work experience debate destroy its real value” – someone talking some sense at last!!!

Yes, there are “evil” employers out there who have nothing better to do than exploit the work experience system and the “poor, helpless youngsters” caught in its trap, however despite all that, I believe there is much value to be found in working “for free” – in fact, I attribute much of my career success to date to having done so many work experience placements when I was starting out (I wrote an article for The Guardian about this, back in 2005 at the peak of my internships).

There’s nothing wrong with a bit of free labour when you’re aged 16-24 and trying to carve out a career path for yourself, but if you still need convincing, here are five reasons why I think youngsters should roll up their sleeves and dive right in to the world of work – unpaid:

View more PowerPoint from Mildred Talabi

So what do you think? Are you convinced working for free can be a good thing or is it just plain old exploitation in sheep clothing…?

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