Employers and Providers: Supporting apprentice wellbeing
It is easy to forget that apprentices are both employees and students, on top of their personal lives.
Apprentices, like all employees and students, should be supported with their wellbeing and welfare throughout their apprenticeship and career. Therefore, it is crucial that a collective approach by the training provider, the employer and the apprentice should be taken to ensure their wellbeing needs are always met.
What we know from apprentices regarding wellbeing and welfare
Apprentices are a unique group in both the workplace and college or university setting as they need to juggle work commitments while at the same time studying for a qualification. The pressure of a high workload puts apprentices wellbeing at risk of deterioration.
The Institute’s apprentice panel carried out a survey to gather more information on the apprentices’ experiences with support for their wellbeing. From a sample of 82 apprentices, it found:
- 86.5% of apprentices know who to talk to about their wellbeing and welfare.
- 16% of apprentices did not get any information about the importance of wellbeing/welfare when they first started their apprenticeship.
An AoC survey of 132 FE colleges indicated that 75% felt there were significant numbers of learners with undisclosed mental health problems.
Further insights of the apprentice experience have been gained from another survey of 128 apprentices at a HEI:
- Regarding awareness of the range of wellbeing support services at work, 51% reported ‘vague’, ‘very little’ or ‘no’ awareness.
- In line with the ‘Minding our Future’, limited awareness of support available could be associated with delays in seeking appropriate support and exacerbation of problems.
- Apprentices struggle with time management and use weekends to catch up with study and assessments (Smith et al, 2020). 59% reported ‘a great deal’ of concern juggling work and study.
For many, the stigma around mental health still stops apprentices reaching out to their training provider or their employer.
A good and thorough induction supported by a high-quality induction pack can help get the apprenticeship off to a good start and make the apprentice feel supported from the outset. You can find out more in the induction section here.
10 ways to improve apprentices’ welfare and wellbeing
Apprentices’ managers should listen to the views of the apprentices’ teams or co-workers and celebrate or share praise. For example:
- rewards after annual or regular appraisals or reviews.
- nominations for awards.
- shout outs on social media or newsletters.
Encourage the apprentice to be part of communities that are important to them and give them time and resources to grow. This could be:
- charity challenges.
- leading events related to topics they are passionate about.
- diversity and inclusion networks.
Being made to feel part of the team is important. Building a sense of identity with a welcome pack helps break the initial barriers down.
Giving the apprentice independence but also support to explore and grow their own ideas. This could be giving the apprentice chance to go on courses outside of their apprenticeship and the time to do those courses within the working day.
4. Valued input
Making sure the apprentice is involved or exposed to decision making. Give them recognition for good ideas.
Having the time to talk to the apprentice about wellbeing in a supportive and safe manner. Making time for them if they need it. Also being patient with them and understanding they are learning at their own pace.
6. Relevant support
Ensuring there is robust comprehensive support for factors that may affect an apprentice’s work and training. They may experience things at home, at work, or with their wider circle of family and friends that may affect their ability to work and learn at different times during their training.
7. Genuine interest
Having quality engagement with the apprentice, teams and training provider on their progress. Showing enthusiasm that they will succeed in their apprenticeship.
8. One-to-one Meetings
Having a safe, honest and supportive relationship between the line manager and the apprentice. This could be in the form of structured monthly meetings or informal check-ins during the working week.
9. External support networks
Whether provided by the training provider or the employer, signposting to additional support such as free counselling, advice or apps can help with wellbeing.
Providing talks to all staff on the importance of wellbeing, having mental health first aiders within the organisation, and, most importantly, making time to ask if the apprentice is okay.
Guidance for Employers
Relationships with line managers and colleagues
Having a good relationship between the apprentice and their line manager is vital. It encourages them to speak up when they are struggling either with their apprenticeship or in their personal lives. Below are ways to improve that relationship.
What makes a good line manager?
- Creating an open an honest relationship – show apprentices where to access resources, message boards or who to contact if they want to talk, and their rights as an employee.
- Partner the apprentice with a buddy; they can be an external person for support and guidance.
- Catch ups – these do not have to be about work, nor in a formal setting. Listen to specific problems as everybody experiences different stresses.
- A healthy work environment – colleagues will need to understand the workload and the balance apprentices have with work and off-the-job training. This can cause a lot of stress and anxiety, especially whilst they prepare for their end point assessment.
There are more practical elements that can go a long way in providing assurance to the apprentice. For example:
- protecting off-the-job training time so the apprentice does not have to sacrifice it to pick up work activities.
- clearly communicated progression for after they’ve finished their apprenticeship.
- mentorship programmes.
- policies in place if training provider or employer are not meeting their commitments.
- regular progress updates and active engagement from line manager and training provider.
- clear training plans and appropriate support of learning.
- actionable feedback with check ins from the trainer provider and the apprentice’s line manager.
- equal access for apprentices to training provider resources.
Guidance for Training Providers
Signs of low mood, stress or anxiety
The employer should be trained or assessed about their ability to recognise and support wellbeing or welfare concerns. They should also be made aware of the safeguarding team or leader at the training provider.
If potential issues are flagged early on, relevant support can be put in place. In some organisations, there are:
- Mental health first aiders.
- Resilience training.
- Industry-specific – e.g., the Barber Talk course.
- In-house training to spread awareness.
Line managers and trainers are also not exempt from low mood, stress or anxiety, and the apprentice may recognise these signs in other people and not know where or how to raise this.
Training providers should check in with the apprentice to see whether they are getting the protected off-the-job training time, breaks and appropriate support.
Understand that apprentices are combining work, learning and their own private lives. Employers and training providers should have regard to their preferences and needs to make reasonable adaptations to their approach.
Provide the apprentice with clear expectations and give sufficient notice of deadlines or work requirements; these can help them plan their work-life balance.
Line managers should gauge the home circumstances of the apprentice to ensure their support matches the apprentice’s requirements.
Employers and training providers should work closely together on all aspects of safeguarding including:
- health and safety.
- employment law.
- equality and diversity.
Employers’ workplaces should provide an explanation of the safeguarding policy, how to report concerns, and the support available to the apprentice should they feel they cannot successfully complete their apprenticeship.
If the apprentice indicates they need take time off or leave for reasons related to welfare and wellbeing, they should be listened to and supported. You can find more guidance on breaks in learning on GOV.UK.
If there is an issue with their employer, there should be a facility made available to try and find another. If an apprentice comes to the training provider with an issue related to mental health, support should be available and cause no harm to their off-the-job training or assessments.
Reminders about wellbeing support should be available to an apprentice throughout their apprenticeship and career.
Some training providers and employers may run wellbeing events and workshops that are more collaborative and encourage discussion.
There is more to apprenticeships than the core learning outcomes for many apprentices. They will benefit from learning about wider life experiences, especially those new to the workplace. Employers and providers may want to consider providing training on the following:
- money management skills.
- stress management.
- work-life balance.
- people skills.
Guidance for Apprentices
There is a lot of support available to apprentices.
Opportunities available to apprentices
Apprenticeships provide opportunities for learning, networking and recognition. Like colleges and universities, whose students have access to student specific unions and societies, so do employers and apprentices.
Below is a small list of opportunities available to apprentices and employers.
- National Apprenticeship Awards
- Rate My Apprenticeship Awards
- BAME Apprenticeship Awards
As well as national awards, there are a number of industry or sector specific awards. Your employer or training provider will know more about these.
- Union Learn
You can also join your industry trade union as well, and your employer should be able to help point you in the right direction.
Apprentice network groups/extra activities
Whether you are a sole apprentice or part of a bigger cohort, building networks is important in reducing isolation and making friends for life.
- Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education apprentice panel
- Young Apprentice Ambassador Network
- Association of Apprentices
- National Society of Apprentices
- Student-Staff Liaison Committees
There may also be employer or training provider specific apprentice networks. Speak to your line manager or training provider to find out. You can also search on the internet to find out more.
The NUS Apprentice Extra discount card helps stretch your hard-earned cash by providing high street discounts and access to exclusive events, all for just £11.
Information is kindly provided by the Institute and is correct at time of publishing.
Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0.