This week is National Apprenticeship Week (NAW), the 16th annual week-long celebration of apprenticeships.
For those looking to advance their career or learn new skills, an apprenticeship can be a great way to develop the skills and knowledge required and provide businesses an opportunity to develop a talented workforce that is equipped with future-ready skills.
But taking on something new can come with challenges. Whether adapting to new routines, meeting new people or taking on a new role, change can be hard. And with additional factors such as rising living costs, international instability and mental health pressures at play, employers need to be mindful of the impact on their apprentices and give appropriate support.
Cheryl McKown, Apprenticeship Manager at Bupa Global & UK, advises on how managers can support their apprentices in a changing world.
Listen to your apprentices
Taking the time to check in with your apprentice, particularly when they first start, can go a long way to fostering good wellbeing. An open-door approach can help apprentices to feel psychologically safe approaching you with any needs or concerns, whether that’s about their learning or something in their personal life.
Regular appraisals or one-to-one sessions give you and your apprentice the chance to speak freely, helping you to gauge how your apprentice is doing and make any adjustments that they may need. As well as listening to them, these check-ins offer the chance to provide any constructive feedback, too.
And it may seem like a small thing, but I always find that a simple ‘thank you’ or ‘well done’ goes a long way to boosting an apprentice’s self-esteem. Feeling properly rewarded for their efforts can help boost mental wellbeing and decrease stress.
Create supportive networks
When going through a big life change, it’s helpful to chat to people who are going through similar challenges. Think about ways you can help apprentices bond and collaborate with others at their level – for example, you could create a buddy or mentor system, connecting new starters with those who have a little more experience.
If you have an intranet you could encourage them to join groups or forums, or think about arranging informal get togethers.
Employees who feel that their organisation takes an active interest in their wellbeing are more likely to stay motivated, engaged and loyal.
Adapt and flex
It’s no secret that many people are finding things more expensive at the moment, and although apprentices are investing in their futures long term, they may be facing additional cost of living pressures in the short term, which could impact their learning or ability to complete the programme.
It’s important to be mindful of these challenges, and think about how your organisation can adapt to help. For example, by signposting to government schemes that apprentices might be entitled to, or adapting working practices. Allowing working or learning from home might help with commuting costs, and it might also be possible to lend office equipment to apprentices or to provide free or subsidised food and drink. Make sure your apprentices know about the support your company can offer and how to access it.
Help with switching off
Juggling learning and work along with a family life and other pressures can be really difficult, particularly when adapting to a new routine at the same time. So it’s really important to help your apprentices find a good work/life balance, including time to relax and recharge.
So try to instil good time management skills by working with your apprentice to plan how they’ll manage their time between learning and on-the-job tasks.
Finding the time to switch off from our busy lives – including social media – is really important to protect against things like burn out, anxiety and stress.
Provide mental health support
Providing support to your apprentices to help them maintain good physical and mental health has never been more important.
Fostering a workplace culture where everyone feels able to be open about their health is a great start, and helps support happy, healthy productive employees who will want to stick around long term.
At Bupa we encourage people to bring their full selves to work, and I believe this is one of the key reasons that our apprentice retention rates are so high: 80% of our apprentices continue to work at Bupa after their apprenticeship ends.
A partnership approach with training providers
Considering all of the above, inducting your training providers to your approach and ways of working is essential to sustaining a supportive culture for learners to thrive. By viewing them as an extension to your organisation’s team you can ensure consistent messaging and high quality service for each learner.