In the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a notable surge and awareness in concerns surrounding mental health and wellbeing, particularly among employees.

However, a distinct group of individuals, those just stepping into the workforce, have experienced a unique set of challenges during this period. New entrants into various industries have had to navigate disproportionate changes and adapt to the evolving work landscape. This article sheds light on the crucial importance of acknowledging the specific needs of apprentices, who are not merely employees but also learners.

Focusing on the mental health and wellbeing of apprentices is not just a matter of goodwill; it is a strategic and ethical imperative for all industry sectors.

Several compelling reasons highlight why we should prioritise the mental health and wellbeing of these apprentices:
1. Human Capital Investment: Apprentices and new entrants serve as the lifeblood of the UK construction sector. By prioritising their mental health and wellbeing, the industry invests in its long-term success. Healthy and mentally well apprentices are more likely to become engaged, motivated, and productive workers, positively impacting on the success of construction projects.

2. Talent Retention: Apprentices who feel supported and valued within the construction sector are more likely to stay with their employers. Lower apprentice turnover rates translate to cost savings in terms of recruitment and training. Moreover, it ensures a skilled and experienced workforce, contributing to industry expertise and natural advancement.

3. Workforce Development: Fostering the mental health and wellbeing of apprentices is essential for personal and professional growth. A resilient and balanced employee is better equipped to handle the rigorous demands of the construction sector, adapt to evolving technologies, and excel in their roles.

4. Legal and Ethical
Responsibilities: The UK has regulations that require the safeguarding of employees’ mental health. Neglecting the mental health of any employee can not only lead to legal liabilities but has the potential to tarnish the reputation of our sector, failing to show the industry in a good light, detracting new entrants for the future.

5. Productivity and Quality: Mental health significantly influences an apprentice’s performance and the quality of their work. A content and mentally well apprentice is more likely to learn faster, gain competency sooner, deliver error-free work, take fewer sick days, and achieve high levels of productivity and quality for their Employer.
6. Safety: Being a risk critical industry, safety is paramount. An apprentice facing mental health issues may not be fully alert or capable of adhering to safety protocols, putting themselves and their colleagues at risk. Focussing on employee mental health and wellbeing is fundamental to maintaining a safe working environment.

7. Innovation and Creativity: A supportive and mentally healthy work environment encourages innovation and creativity. Apprentices who feel secure and respected in their roles are more likely to propose inventive ideas and methods that can propel the sector into the future.

8. Positive Company Culture: Prioritising the mental health and wellbeing of apprentices helps cultivate a positive company culture. It sets a standard of care, empathy, and inclusivity, which enhances employee morale and fosters harmonious relationships at all levels.

9. Stigma Reduction: Actively addressing mental health issues among construction apprentices contributes to reducing the stigma surrounding these challenges. It sends a powerful message that seeking help is acceptable and encourages open, honest conversations about mental health.

10. Social Responsibility: Today, we are all are expected to uphold social responsibility and demonstrate a commitment to employee wellbeing. The construction industry’s focus on the mental health of apprentices aligns with broader societal expectations and emphasises its dedication to the welfare of its workforce.

We must appreciate that Apprentices and new entrants are the lifeblood of our industry, as they represent the bridge between theoretical knowledge and practical experience. Their role is multifaceted, requiring them to both learn and contribute to their workplace. Just like any other employee, it is imperative that we recognise the significance of supporting apprentices to ensure their wellbeing needs are adequately addressed. This involves a collaborative effort between the training provider, the employer, and the apprentice themselves.

In this endeavour, over the coming year, Scottish Building Federation along with Mates in Mind are leading on a project to heighten the awareness of Mental Health and Wellbeing for Apprentices and new entrants into Construction. This initiative focuses on key areas of development and activity to support not only the apprentices but also the employers and training providers.

The project proposes a series of seminars to serve as platforms for discussions, sharing experiences, and providing practical strategies for promoting mental health and wellbeing among apprentices. They will bring together key stakeholders, including training providers, employers, and apprentices themselves, to foster a collaborative approach in addressing these critical issues.

Additionally, the project aims to produce information and support packs for training providers, apprentices, and employers. These packs will contain valuable information and details about the support services available to assist apprentices in their journey. They will also feature information about the project sponsors, including People’s Partnership and the work of the B&CE Charitable Trust, highlighting their commitment to the cause of mental health and wellbeing in the workplace.
In summary, prioritising the mental health and wellbeing of apprentices is not just a moral obligation; it is an investment in the future of the industry. Healthy, engaged, and well-supported Employees are more likely to contribute positively, remain loyal, and drive innovation, ultimately benefiting the industry as a whole, whilst fostering a culture of care and responsibility.
For information about this project please contact Scottish Building Federation.