Over recent years, a central concern of policy has been to drive up post-16 participation rates in full-time education and address the needs of young people not in education, employment or training (NEET). As a result, young people who enter work which is classified as 'without training' at 16/17 have largely been ignored. However, the decision to Raise the Participation Age (RPA) for continuing in learning for all 17-year olds from 2013 and for all 18-year olds from 2015 in England, together with a growing unease about the impact of the current recession on youth unemployment rates, have revived interest in the 'jobs without training' (JWT) group. This paper draws on the findings from two studies: first, a qualitative study in two contrasting local labour markets, of young people in JWT, together with their employers and parents; and second, an evaluation of the Learning Agreement Pilots (LAP), which was the first policy initiative in England targeted at the JWT group. Both studies reveal a dearth of understanding about early labour market entrants and a lack of policy intervention and infrastructure to support the needs of the JWT group throughout the UK. From this, it is concluded that questionable assumptions have been made about the composition and the aspirations of young people in JWT, and their employers, on the basis of little or no evidence. As a consequence, a policy 'quick fix' to satisfy the RPA agenda will not easily be achieved. If the decision to raise the participation age is adopted also by the Welsh and Scottish parliaments, similar challenges may have to be faced
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