Joann Power
Learner Supports for Apprenticeship Coordinator
Waterford and Wexford Education and Training Board (WWETB)



Our vision was to create a more inclusive environment for apprentices at Phase 2 from a broad perspective.

* Facilitate them to achieve positive learning outcomes

* Encourage engagement and learner focus

* Improve and reduce attainment inequality

Our vision for the mental health support service was;

  • to enhance their strengths and competencies 
  • to bring about change at the level of the individual
  • to provide an additional support strand within FET that addresses challenges for our learners
  • to connect partners both internally and externally – connecting the mental health needs to the expertise.

So how did we do this;

1. through partnership

2. assessed the evidence base

3. Promotional materials

4. Signpost to a Mental Health Advocate

5. Signpost to Counsellor 

6. Embed supports in the classroom

WWETB is the key stakeholder of this intervention, internally there are multiple layers of involvement with vital links to many external stakeholders.

Care is an intrinsic element of our ethos within FET, evidenced by the holistic approach of our Additional Support staff and instructors. 

Ensuring that those who are the most vulnerable have their needs met in a supportive way, through accessing a simplified pathway to Mental Health Supports through our Adlerian Psychotherapist as well as general mental health information available throughout their journey in Apprenticeship.

We know that in 2018, there were 352 recorded deaths through suicide in Ireland, of these 282 were male.

Our internal stakeholders include;

* Adult Literacy Organisers

* Learning Support Tutors

* Trade Instructors

* Training Centre Managers

* FET Management (led by the FET Director)

* Services to Business Unit (Where additional supports are located)

The external stakeholders include;

* GP’s


* Suicide Officer HSE

* Addiction Services

* Psychiatric Nurse’s

* Community groups / social clubs i.e. men’s shed & social prescribing.

The messages from all internal stakeholders;- self care and building resilience  

The Counsellor; operates within the space of the ‘lived experience’ and making this ‘simplified pathway’ actionable.

The partnership approach promotes greater ownership regarding the challenges, facilitates capacity building, supports the development of interdepartmental structures (that have previously worked in isolation) will improve its sustainability chances).

The ‘Speak Easy’ project is a focused and targeted approach keeping the apprentices and their needs at the core of developments. Their voice is the lead indicator of change.

What did we need to know to set up this support:

1. The knowledge and research base for Mental Health promotion

2. Assessment of need

3. How to enable and create positive mental health

4. Link to stakeholders regarding implementation

The now:

1. Building the knowledge and evidence base with a view to identifying and filling gaps

2. Translating the evidence base into practice aligned with strategies and policy

3. Provision of information around topics of concern (Sways), booklet around Minding your Mental Health and booklet around signposting to services.

The future:

1. Evaluate ‘upstream’ interventions addressing the broader determinants of Mental Health

2. Document wider health and social gain

3. Cost effective studies

4. Embed similar initiatives across Further Education and Training


1. Assess models of best practice that are consistent for all learners across FET.

2.  Collaboration and shared knowledge

Main issues:

Mental, physical health and emotional problems including anxiety, depression, relationship problems, addictions, and relationships.

Although the highest rate was with males aged 25-35, we feel that our interventions could positively impact future figures.


1. to reduce psychological distress and to enhance 

2. promote psychological well-being with clients by examining mental health issues 

3. explore the underlying problems. 

We know that there is a very strong link between educational attainment and self-esteem/mental health and emotional wellbeing and as educators, we need to address the gaps by creating processes and systems that sign post to appropriate services (internally and externally).

We understand that suicide remains a complex issue requiring evidenced and targeted approaches and interventions across many sectors and feel that connecting the expertise with the need is our first line of defence.

Our Psychotherapist works one to one face to face, in groups and runs Art therapy groups She works as part of a multi-disciplinary team such as in disability services, student support and guidance. Referral is often through learner support or coordinators, but self-referral is possible and encouraged.