Young apprentices need targeted and effective mental health supports: report

Young apprentices need targeted and effective mental health supports: report

30 November 2021

Almost half of young Australians will not complete their apprenticeship due to exposure to situations that negatively affect their mental wellbeing, a new Orygen report has found.

The report, Wellbeing at work: Apprenticeships and mental health, identified that apprentices faced a reduced sense of wellbeing and potential mental ill-health due to bullying, long work hours, low wages, job insecurity and unrealistic workplace expectations.

Cameron Boyle, senior policy analyst at Orygen, Australia’s centre of excellence in youth mental health, said bullying and abuse was one of the major risks to the mental health and wellbeing of apprentices.

“Young apprentices are particularly susceptible to workplace harassment, bullying or exposure to violence,” Mr Boyle, lead author of the report, said.

“Our report showed that workplace bullying was a factor in a quarter of apprentices deciding to withdraw from their apprenticeship.”

The report also found that workplace conditions negatively impacted the mental health and wellbeing of apprentices.

Mr Boyle said the long hours that apprentices work affected their sleep, diet, study and social life.

“They also experienced financial stress due to their comparatively low pay, and faced the added pressure of being assigned responsibilities beyond their level of knowledge.”

The report outlined and examined a number of existing options to support the mental wellbeing of apprentices that included: programs and models focussed on anti-bullying; mentoring and peer support; digital supports and resilience training; and Employee Assistance Programs.

“These existing wellbeing supports provide an opportunity to research whether they could be adapted to better support apprentices,” Mr Boyle said.

“To do this, we need to develop a clear plan to provide strategic guidance to employers and apprenticeship providers outlining how best to support the wellbeing of their apprentices.

The role of the Australian Government regulating the employment and conditions of apprentices in Australia was also discussed in the report.

Mr Boyle said the Australian Government’s Apprenticeships Code requires that the employer provide ‘a safe workplace, free from bullying and verbal, physical, racial and sexual abuse’ and will ensure that ‘all occupational health and safety requirements’ are addressed.

“While the provision of a ‘safe’ workplace does include protection of mental health, there should be a more explicit reference to the need to promote mental wellbeing among apprentices,” he said.