This text analyzes youth job market patterns in the changed conditions of the last quarter of the 20th century, presenting a picture of the early workplace experience of young people. It examines patterns of continuity and change in the determinants of gaining work and training/promotion opportunities, reasons for union membership and quit decisions, and job-swapping behaviour and its outcomes, with particular attention paid to race and gender issues. It is based on a survey of a large sample of early school-leavers carried out in London between 1979 and 1981, during which time the Brixton Riots occurred. This was the period when youth unemployment in Britain doubled to reach a new plateau of around 20 per cent, which has since persisted. The main thesis is that most young people are purposeful about work and careers. However, persisting unemployment, their increasing confinement to dead-end work, and the removal of state benefits to unemployed youth have led to the withdrawal of most of them from the labour market, in a quest for credentialism in the form of examinations and training.