Mental Health and COVID-19 Challenges in Apprenticeship Programs – New Survey Reveals Issues and Solutions

Apprenticeships play an essential role in the development of a highly trained workforce. Today, apprenticeship programs face new challenges while building on their successes, according to recent survey results from the International Foundation. The 2022 report Top Trends in Apprenticeship Programs reveals issues related to mental health and the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite these hurdles, however, programs are citing overall success while anticipating a positive hiring outlook in the coming years.

I spoke with Julie Stich, CEBS, VP of Content at the Foundation, more on this topic and the survey report. She said that from a skilled labor shortage to external competition, recent years have shined a light on apprenticeship program challenges. This report shows that many programs have identified solutions to ensure increased program success.

Challenges

The most prevalent challenges faced by U.S. apprenticeship programs fit into three categories:

  • Communication difficulties: Expressing the value of the trades to both external stakeholders and prospective apprentices
  • Filling the future pipeline: A shortage of apprenticeship candidates and difficulty finding qualified instructors and staff
  • External competition: Competition from other business and educational models, including four-year or technical colleges.

Responding program representatives also noted the prevalence of challenges at the individual apprentice level. They include:

  • Child- and/or elder-care issues (81%)
  • Decreased job security (66%)
  • Injuries due to the nature of work (65%)
  • Unemployment due to the cyclical/seasonal nature of work (64%)
  • Increased workhours due to reduced hires (59%)
  • Language and communication barriers (58%)
  • Transportation issues (57%).

Solutions

Despite the difficulties shared by survey respondents, many programs have a positive outlook, with plans to build on current successes and implement new initiatives to address problems.

Recruitment, Hiring and Retention

  • As part of their recruitment strategies, the majority of programs target military members/ veterans (89%), women (86%), people of color (82%), indigenous people (48%), ex-offenders (37%) and immigrants (37%).
  • 71% of U.S. programs anticipate that the hiring outlook for apprentices will be positive for the next two years.
  • About nine in ten programs rate their ability to recruit (90%) and retain (92%) apprentices as very or somewhat effective.
  • Respondents also shared information on marketing their programs using traditional channels and social media promotions.

Life Skills Initiatives      

To provide a well-rounded education, life skills initiatives focus on the personal development of apprentices. Prominent components of life skills training programs include personal safety (90%); work/jobsite behavior (86%); mathematical skills (82%); employability skills, which typically include proper attire, adequate transportation and timeliness (80%); sexual harassment training (74%); communication/social skills (72%); and union citizenship (71%).

Impact of Mental Health/Substance Use Disorder

Mental health conditions have a considerable impact (very or somewhat impactful) on apprentice performance, creating issues such as absenteeism/tardiness and presenteeism as well as affecting morale and physical health. Apprenticeship training programs are utilizing a number of strategies to combat these conditions and reduce their impact, including:

  • Treatment programs
  • Education and awareness programs
  • Return-to-work programs
  • Preventative programs.

For more information on Top Trends in Apprenticeship Programs: 2022 Survey Results, visit www.ifebp.org/apprenticeship.

Cara McMullin
Communications Specialist

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