FROM next year the age youngsters must be in education or training will go up to 17 and then 18 by 2015.

Millions will be ploughed into helping at least 55,000 people aged 16 and 17 classed as Neets (Not in education, employment or training), to help gain skills and qualifications.

But is this just a thinly veiled attempt to cut down the rising unemployment rates or a response to the challenges of today’s jobs market?

Businessmen, including former adviser to the Bank of England, David Blanchflower, said it is vital 16 and 17-year-olds remain in some sort of training.

But do those affected in Essex agree it is the way forward?

Alison Andreas, director of quality and curriculum planning at Colchester Institute, says it is working hard to implement the Government plans.

She adds figures for Essex show a low percentage of Neets at 16, but says this can give a false impression. She says: “If you look at the figures for 17 and then 18-year-olds you can see the percentage going up.

“What happens is they often leave school, go to college or get a job, but then drop out a couple of years later and with no qualifications find it hard to find work.”

She explains the system being brought in, under the 2008 Employment Act, will not mean everyone has to stay at school until they are 18.

She adds: “They can go and get a job, but employers have a legal requirement to make sure an employee aged between 16 and 18 is getting some form of training, either from them or by attending college courses on at least one day a week.

“It essentially means they cannot employ a 16-year-old full-time.”

“I can only see it as being a good thing really. There will still be the route of staying on at school or sixth form and pursuing a career academically, but this will support others who do not want to go that way.

“We want to get to youngsters when they are 14 to talk to them about the sort of vocational courses we offer, and we also want them to start thinking about things like when courses start.

“At the moment, if they drop out a few weeks into a course it might be months before they can get on a new one, so we would like to move away from the tradition of academic years so that it is more flexible.”