Abstract: This article presents how young people in educational measures experience and discuss tensions between structural and individualised challenges they face in the transition from school to work. The findings are based on an Austrian citizen social science research project that involved conducting participatory research in Vienna with 33 young people between the ages of 15 and 23 years who are in measures for early school leavers that are preparing for further education and training. These co‐researchers struggle with constant comparisons to “norm” biographies and their accompanying social pressure as they try to meet the high expectations of school, work, and family. Additionally, mental health was a prominent issue, as the young co‐researchers experience stigma and a lack of professional support, which can impede their access to the labour market. The results of our research indicate that young people in employment measures require a more inclusive school and work environment that supports them regardless of their origin, family background, appearance, or mental health status. They negotiate the tension between individual employability and structural disadvantage and demand a recognised place in society, a request that connects to current debates concerning the individualisation of transitions from school to work.
Keywords: citizen social science; early school leavers; education and training up to 18; NEET; participatory action research; school‐to‐work transition; youth