Mental health conditions are prevalent in the UK among young people, with research revealing that 75% of mental illnesses start before a child reaches their 18th birthday.

Facing the challenge of combining working and study in an apprenticeship is not easy, and it is the responsibility of employers and training providers to support students who are suffering from mental health conditions, help them achieve their best and reach their career goals.

With the government striving to achieve its goal of three million apprenticeships by 2020, there is a significant challenge for providers to ensure they offer full apprenticeship support for those with mental health conditions.

If you are a currently in an apprenticeship or are about to embark on a programme and in need of advice, we explore ways that organisations deliver apprenticeship support for those trying to cope with a mental health condition.

Apprenticeship support: how employers can help

There are several standards that employers should adopt to ensure their staff are receiving the correct level of help throughout their employment and studies:

A positive approach

Having positive messages related to the acceptance of mental health conditions embedded throughout an organisation is key. This will make those suffering with these types of conditions not only feel accepted but will highlight that the organisation is positive about mental health.

This type of messaging encourages transparency and can enable individuals with any issues to be open with employers about their wellbeing. It is also the responsibility of every single member of staff to encourage a positive approach to mental health - it should not sit with one person or group in isolation.

Providing access

It is crucial for apprentices to have access to the correct level of tailored and individual support; this will ensure equality and grant everyone the same level of opportunity.

  • There are several ways that organisations or training providers can facilitate this, including:
  • Introducing mentors within an organisation
  • Providing access to local community mental health teams
  • Encouraging apprentices to seek support from the NHS or from local support groups
  • Effectively signposting to the most appropriate services

Flexible working

Employers can assist apprentices coping with mental health conditions by enabling a flexible working approach where possible. This could include ‘flexi-time’ or adjusted hours and could assist with giving someone a more positive work experience.

Challenging the stereotypes/stigma

Employers and training providers should be consistently challenging preconceptions about mental health. By being approachable and encouraging open conversation, this will create a culture centred on support and openness, and reduce stigma and discrimination.

Staff education

Ensuring that employers, training providers and colleges have a strong understanding of mental health in the workplace is crucial.

If institutions have this education, it safeguards apprentices and ensures a greater understanding of the challenges and obstacles being faced by young people. It also encourages a supportive culture and ensures apprentices are signposted to the appropriate support as and when they are needed.

Early intervention

Staff and their role in early intervention is key. Ensuring team members are aware of the symptoms, signs, and possible support options available and how these can be accessed, through staff education, will ensure any red flags are picked up early, before an individual reaches a crisis point.

Coping with apprenticeship stress

An apprenticeship programme is a highly rewarding and enriching career path which presents countless benefits to those who enrol. Along with a host of benefits including earning while you learn, building skills and expertise for the future, and improving your employability prospects, you receive invaluable on-the-job experience.

If you suffer from a mental health condition and are struggling to cope with the stress of your apprenticeship, here are some useful tips and advice from mental health charity, Mind.

  • Recognising the signs of your stress and their causes is a useful starting point
  • Establish what you find stressful and helpful in the workplace and discuss this with your employer
  • Experiment with coping techniques such as mindfulness
  • Balance your time
  • Communicate if you don’t feel supported
  • Develop good relationships with your colleagues
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help
  • Look after yourself by having a healthy and balanced diet
  • Get plenty of exercise/physical activity
  • Do not suffer in silence – talk to friends, family, colleagues or a medical professional

GP Strategies and apprenticeship support

GP Strategies prides itself on providing programmes with the right levels of emotional wellbeing and support for apprentices who suffer from mental health conditions.

Dave Martin, Vice President, comments:

“While a fulfilling job can be good for mental health and wellbeing, life for whatever reason, can get on top of us. Problems at work can bring on symptoms or make their effects worse, and our aim is to provide and maintain an environment where all learners are encouraged to talk, and are listened to. Regular one-to-one meetings with their dedicated skills coach gives apprentice the opportunity to discuss any difficulties or additional support needs required. We also have contacts at each of our regional centres who are trained to deal with health and wellbeing related issues.”

Find out more about apprenticeship support today

An apprentice with mental health challenges should be able to strive for the same career opportunities as everyone else, and GP Strategies prides itself on delivering flexible learning solutions for apprenticeships in business, digital and IT, leadership and management, service sector, childcare and education, adult and social care.

Tailor-made and carefully selected, our wide range of programmes will equip you with the appropriate learning needed to realise your potential and flourish in your future career.

If you have your sights set on embarking on an apprenticeship programme or have any questions about mental health or wellbeing in the workplace, contact us today or call us on 0330 1000 610.


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