Study makes case for including mental health training in apprentice rule updates


A recently published study argues that mental health training should be included in construction apprenticeship training. The peer-reviewed study by a St. Louis-based pioneer in interventions impacting mental health, substance abuse, and suicide in the industry comes just as the federal government prepares to review and update apprenticeship standards.

The study report, “Making a Case for Requiring Mental Health Training in the Construction Industry: A Pilot Study,” was authored by Dr. John Gaal, director for the Missouri AFL-CIO’s Missouri Works Initiative’s Worker Wellness Program. It was published in the Winter 2023 issue of the International Journal of Vocational Education and Training.

On Dec. 14 the Department of Labor (DOL) issued a notice of proposed rulemaking to revise the regulations for registered apprenticeship by enhancing worker protections and equity, improving the quality of registered apprenticeship programs, revising the state governance provisions, and more clearly establishing critical pipelines to registered apprenticeship programs, such as registered career and technical education (CTE) apprenticeships.

The proposed rule would improve the capacity of the National Apprenticeship System to respond to evolving employer needs, provide workers equitable pathways to good jobs, and increase the system’s long-term resilience. The notice allows for comment within a 60-day window following its publication in the Federal Register.

The study noted a presentation made by Gaal at a North America’s Building Trade Unions mental health conference in August 2022. At that conference, Gaal proposed incorporating training on mental health issues into pre-apprenticeship and safety training programs.

Gaal’s research study tracked knowledge and attitudes regarding mental health of participants in inclusive four pre-apprenticeship programs in St. Louis and Springfield, Mo. and a control group of human resource and safety professionals attending a conference.

The pilot study was based on the polling results from a 60- to 90-minute presentation titled “Mental Health in the Construction Industry: Stop the Stigma – Break the Silence.” Five polling questions were asked of the participants throughout this presentation. Participants were quizzed using Slido throughout the presentation with a discussion of the correct answers. Participants were then tested after the completion of the presentation.

“With issues of mental health in today’s workforce escalating in importance, the results of this pilot study should serve as an impetus for designing, developing, and implementing a standardized, required training session on this topic for inclusion in programs such as MC3 and OSHA-10 or OSHA-30,” Gaal wrote.


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