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Positive action

EMCOR UK’s Apprenticeship Manager Natalie Henderson and Account Director Steve Thomson discuss how apprenticeships not only improve employment opportunities but help support mental health

For decades, apprenticeships have been a fantastic way to train and inspire the next generation of workers. The need for apprenticeships is being increasingly recognised. They are growing in popularity, with over 100,000 starters in 2022, and more than 700,000 people undertaking apprenticeships in the 2022/23 calendar year. EMCOR UK recognises this need for a well-trained workforce and has offered apprenticeships for over 30 years.


In 2022, data revealed that mental health was the second highest cause of absenteeism for EMCOR UK colleagues working at British Sugar. These struggles are reflected throughout the UK workforce; Champion Health 2023 data found that 60 per cent of employees experience anxiety, but only 10 per cent are seeking support from their employers.

To help address mental health issues at work and in the local community, we partnered with charity Access Community Trust (ACT). The charity provides a range of services for young people, including helping with learning, development, and employment, as well as providing support with mental health and wellbeing.

EMCOR UK volunteers refurbished the Steam House Café in King’s Lynn, one of the charity’s mental health crisis cafes. Through our links with ACT we employed three individuals, and ACT has provided mental health training for over 50 EMCOR UK colleagues. Training was provided via our L&D team but Steam House Cafe do provide on-going drop in sessions at sites for all colleagues and customers.

In addition to this, we also shared our apprenticeship Levy with ACT to fund two apprenticeships. Through this support, ACT was able to provide opportunities to disadvantaged individuals otherwise overlooked.

These actions resulted in a 50 per cent reduction in the number of working days lost by EMCOR UK colleagues working at British Sugar due to mental health issues.

The partnership also successfully generated over £70,000 in social value, demonstrating how local partnerships can be mutually beneficial, supporting individuals in the community and at work.

After this resounding success, further refurbishment projects are planned, and we continue to work with ACT to identify employment opportunities for individuals struggling to get back into work.

The social value revenue, improved mental health, and jobs created by this scheme highlight how employers across the UK can support individuals in the community and at work by implementing mental health-focused initiatives and training opportunities.


We currently have more than 130 staff on an apprenticeship with 60 being recruited into posts as an apprentice. We have set a minimum yearly target of 25 trade apprentices, all earning the real living wage, to support with tackling skills shortages which is a vital part of the company’s ED&I approach.

An increasing focus of our scheme is women, who take up fewer roles in FM. Nuffield Health’s 2023 report found that 48 per cent of women felt that their job negatively impacted their mental health, in comparison to 40 per cent of men.

The increased stresses and barriers faced by women in the workplace is something that we have sought to tackle through our new Female Leadership Apprenticeship scheme, funded by the Apprenticeship Levy. This scheme is run by women, for women.

A range of paid apprenticeships also rival traditional academic pathways for young people. By offering GCSE to degree level equivalents, apprenticeships provide a variety of personal development opportunities and affordable pathways for individuals unable to gain university degrees due to economic disadvantage.


Apprenticeships are instrumental in upskilling employees and providing long-term recruitment opportunities. However, their continued success is dependent on further support from schools and the Government.

The introduction of the Baker Clause by the Government in 2018 mandated that all school children in years 8-12 must discuss non-academic routes with training providers. However, the Institute of Public Policy Research found in 2019 that two thirds of secondary schools were not adhering to the Baker Clause’s rules. It’s vital that businesses offer a route to work.

The Apprenticeship Levy is a brilliant scheme created in 2017, which allows apprenticeships to be funded by the organisations running them. Though this scheme has doubled the available funding for apprenticeships in recent years, we think it could do even more. If the Levy funds could be further used to fund apprentices’ wages, more organisations throughout the UK could better support their apprentices.

These programmes create future-ready leaders and inspire next generations by building sustainable workforces and uplifting and educating members of the local community. But to remain successful, apprenticeships need more support.

Increasing trade specialist presence in schools will help combat the stigma that they are a low-wage or a last resort option. By providing qualifications for trade apprentices, more organisations can reduce workplace inequalities, retain skilled staff, and sustainably support the wellbeing of their employees.

By creating a steady flow of talent in the UK workforce across all industries, apprenticeships help tackle the UK skills shortage and alleviate the increasing mental health crisis, as well as provide better opportunities for underprivileged youth.

About Sarah OBeirne

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