To celebrate World Mental Health Awareness Day, Corinna Roberts, from Bridgend, is encouraging others with mental health conditions to consider apprenticeships.
Corinna, a full-time Diversity and Inclusion Officer at the Intellectual Property Office, (IPO), lived with mental health issues throughout her time in education.
Following years working in her local cinema and restaurants, Corinna decided that she wanted to find a supportive route into work which would offer tailored training and guidance, which led her to apply for a Level 3 Business Administration Apprenticeship with the IPO.
During her time working towards her apprenticeship in the HR department, Corinna discovered that her experience with mental health put her in a unique position to offer support to others in similar situations. She worked with Time to Change Wales to spearhead a mental health initiative and has become an advocate for wellbeing at the company, encouraging colleagues to come forward and open up about their experiences with mental health by running runs drop-in sessions and arranging diversity events for employees.
When discussing her motivation to apply for an apprenticeship, Corinna said:
“I got stuck in a rut after returning from maternity leave to my waitressing job – I needed to find a role where I could progress and get more of a work-life balance. Pursuing an apprenticeship over attending university was something I’d thought about for quite some time as I wanted to gain more qualifications while supporting my little one. Earning at the same time as learning was a massive bonus for me!”
Corinna says her apprenticeship has helped her to gain confidence in her professional abilities, and she hopes her experience will show others with mental health conditions that apprenticeships can be key to a successful career.
“Since finishing my apprenticeship, I’ve gained loads of confidence to apply for roles I may not have considered before. With my apprenticeship completed, I can now gain further qualifications in my current role, up to degree level. Without my apprenticeship, this wouldn’t have been an option for me!
“I hope that, by talking more about mental health in the workplace, I can contribute to breaking down any barriers or stereotypes people may have. The more we talk about mental health, the more we can encourage others to come forward when they’re struggling, and support can be put in place when people need it most. Apprenticeships are a great way to access a supportive working environment, as we work closely with managers while also receiving tailored support from our training provider. It’s a real win-win for employers and apprentices.”
Traditionally there has been under-representation from protected groups on the apprenticeship programme in Wales with only 1.5% of apprentices declaring themselves as having a disability or health condition.
Almost all job sectors have apprenticeship programmes and the majority of apprenticeships can be made accessible for people with additional needs.
Elaine Short, Learning and Development Specialist at the Intellectual Property Office said:
“Corinna has turned her experiences with mental health into a way of offering further support to others in similar situations, and we’re so proud to see her reaching her full potential by helping others.
“At the IPO, we often find that our apprentices gain confidence very quickly, as we do invest that extra time and effort into our apprenticeship candidates to make sure they’re continually challenged. We tailor their learning, and as a result, they often go the extra mile for the company, taking on their own projects and plans. I’d encourage other businesses to consider hiring apprenticeships from a range of backgrounds as a sure-fire way to find diverse, dedicated, proactive members of staff, who have a really positive attitude towards lifelong learning.”
Minister for Economy and Transport, Ken Skates, said:
“Corinna is a perfect example of someone who has used an apprenticeship to gain the skills they need to get ahead in life. I’d urge anyone who is thinking about their next steps to consider an apprenticeship as a serious option.
Apprenticeships provide individuals with a ladder of opportunity to ‘learn on the job’, earn a wage and build a long-standing career, and stories like this prove that apprenticeships offer many opportunities. For the businesses, apprenticeships are a proven way to tailor an employee’s skill-set to meet the specific demands of a business, leaving employers across Wales with a ready-made talent pool that can rise up through the ranks to management roles”.
The Apprenticeship Programme in Wales is funded by the Welsh Government with support from the European Social Fund.