Today’s apprentices are tomorrow’s workforce and business owners. This is why it is imperative that we support all young people as they start their journey towards a rewarding career to learn how to identify the signs of stress, anxiety, and depression not only in themselves, but also in their fellow students and colleagues. By providing young people with the skills, knowledge, and tools, they can help to build safer workplaces for themselves and others with transparency around mental health.

This is why the recently announced Mates in Mind charity and Scottish Building Federation partnership is so important, as it ensures that mental wellbeing is embedded into all apprenticeships, as well as induction processes for new entrants, to prepare future workers, line managers and business owners (approximately 35% of apprentices go on to run their own business) and create a legacy of wellbeing. It will also support this important transition from classroom to workplace to ensure success and that employers understand the awareness that a new entrant will now bring.

Why is this new partnership important?
Apprentices face a huge learning curve whilst also experiencing changes in their personal lives. During the adjustment from a college environment, they are also learning about their trade in terms of theory in the classroom as well as throughout their practice on site. In addition, they may have moved away from home for the first time, they will be making new friends, it could be their first time in a job which includes learning to manage money, pay bills, undertake practical tasks like cooking, booking medical appointments and so on. Given all the changes they are experiencing it is hardly surprising that a Mates in Mind survey of 550 apprentices found that:
• 73% had felt stressed at least once in the previous week. • Only 33% said their employer/colleague would notice signs of mental ill-health in others (the rest said no or unsure).
• 70% had NEVER taken part in any mental health training and yet 91% said they thought training would help them to manage their own mental health.
• Only 55% said they would reach out to someone if they were experiencing stress, depression, or anxiety.
Research also demonstrates the shocking rates of mental ill-health across the construction sector, including associated trades and businesses:
• A third of construction workers live with severe levels of anxiety.1
• In 2021, there were 6,319 suicides registered in the UK2, of which 507 were in construction alone3, where the rate is nearly four times higher than in other sectors4.
In addition, research found that ‘talking about mental health is still perceived as slightly taboo in the workplace, the most common reason, cited by two-fifths (39%) of people, was that they feel they would be judged negatively if they opened up about their mental health. 36% stated they would feel too exposed and vulnerable’.5
This is why it is time we address mental health together; removing the stigma that surrounds it and the barriers to starting an early conversation before someone reaches a point of crisis.
Our academically evaluated programme is specifically designed with this cohort in mind. It addresses the pressures both societal and more personal that students are facing, and through the train the tutor model ensures that the college is able to embed this as part of their curriculum.
Why does it matter?
Employers have a legal duty to assess the risk of workplace stress for their workers and to take appropriate action to ensure their wellbeing (HSE).
But more than that, organisations also have a moral duty to their staff. Good mental wellbeing has positive impacts on everyone, e.g., confidence, purpose, achievement, positive relationships, and inclusion.
It also benefits the business, e.g., increased productivity, a reduction in sickness and staff turnover, and it demonstrates that you are a good, safe, and supportive place to work.
Finally, mental ill-health costs employers in the private sector £45bn (September 2020-August 2021). The same report found that on average businesses achieve a £5 return for every £1 spent on wellbeing support.6
What can we do?
At Mates in Mind, we advocate for a proactive, prevention strategy which empowers employers and employees with the guidance, skills, resources, and confidence to change their workplace culture and both identify and address contributory risks. We educate, train and support employers and their employees, including apprentices and new entrants, across the whole workforce to ensure there is a continuous and comprehensive solution in place so that no-one reaches crisis point and mental health awareness becomes everyone’s issue. We need to ensure every conversation counts.
This is why Mates in Mind is working in partnership with the Scottish Building Federation to provide a holistic, joined up programme which includes a wealth of training, seminars, and resources. The key to success is that it brings together the experience and expertise of the Federation, Mates in Mind, employers, training providers, apprentices and new entrants.
Working in collaboration we can eradicate the stigma and barriers around mental health in the workplace, and vitally, we can start the important conversations and save lives.
Where to find support
If you would like to find out more about how to start the conversation within your organisation, there are free resources available on our website. Mates in Mind is here to provide support, starting with an assessment which results in recommendations which help you to achieve your organisational vision, and support the best approach to mental health in your workplace www.matesinmind.org
Working together, as a Federation and as a sector, we can make the difference to stop people becoming mentally unwell through their work. However, whilst our aim is to ensure that no-one reaches crisis point, we recognise that people might not always feel comfortable starting a conversation when they are ready. If you, or someone you know, needs help or support, you can speak to one of the many free, confidential support services listed on our website which includes our free to use 24/7 anonymous text service – text Beamate to 85258
Remember, you are not alone, there is always someone to talk to.