Shape the future of our therapists

There is only a short time to give your feedback into the brand new apprenticeship standards. Hellen Ward explains why it's so important

Hellen WardAs many of you know, I am co-chairing the Trailblazers for our sector with the fantastic George Hammer, chief executive of Urban Retreat (and many other equally successful ventures). There is lots of talk about Trailblazers and what is happening in the future concerning our industry. I am chairing the hair group, and George is chairing beauty.

Trailblazers are about putting employers in the driving seat regarding apprenticeships. The Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) is asking each sector that employs apprentices to feed back what they want from apprenticeships to make sure apprentices are job-ready on completing them.

George and I have helped form a committee, working closely with Skills Active/Habia and the National Hairdressers Federation (NHF) that we believe is representative of hair and beauty employers across the spectrum – from micro-businesses to small employers, from medium-sized chains to franchise chains and some of the largest employers in the industry.

It’s interesting as many are also training providers – but we’ve been quite categorical that we stick to the remit and ensure that what we propose as a group remains within our remit – what the employer views as job ready. The mechanics of how it will be delivered have not been established and we need industry feedback. BIS timelines are tight and for this part of the initiative we focused on what the end result should be and what should be involved in the training and end testing parts of the process.

Now it’s vital for you to have your say. The documents for hair and beauty are available for your feedback and we want as many people as possible to see what the Expert Working Groups we’ve formed have come up with and let us know what they think. The survey is be available online and Mark Moloney, publisher of our very own Professional Beauty and Editor Eve Oxberry are keen to ensure their readers (you!) have their say. It’s not often we get to input into the future of our profession so we want to ensure the direction we take is as representative of the trade as possible to ensure the process delivers what we all feel is right and needed.

As George points out, we’d love to see a future where apprentices were taken on as widely in beauty as they are in hair – employers would relish the chance to “grow their own” therapists as they do hairdressers. However, it’s not always possible to consider a beauty apprenticeship as the young people concerned can’t really watch and learn in the privacy of a beauty room as they do on the salon floor. However, George and his group do believe that beauty therapists in training could be picking up this precious, on-the-job experience on the shop floor during the apprenticeship process, with the added benefit of enabling employers to part fund the process by being able to charge for their basic treatments. It would be fantastic to think that we could create more beauty therapy apprenticeships in future and train and nurture our future therapists in-house, too, letting us tailor-make the training to meet our individual business requirements.

Many people feel standards across the board could be greatly improved. From my perspective (and George and I don’t vote in this process but do have the casting vote if required) I would like to see the bar raised. I don’t expect anyone who has finished their basic apprenticeship to be at the standard of one of my own hairdressing trainees who has completed our five-year programme. But I would like to see some basic skills being delivered as a matter of course. Blow drying with a round brush, perfect French manicuring, a high standard of waxing – these are all hair and beauty skills that must be delivered across the board if we are to retain our reputation as being at the forefront of the industry globally. All too often, as an employer, I incur the time and expense of acting as a finishing school to retrain and upskill the apprentice even to a basic, acceptable level to commence work on paying clients, and many salon owners see this as par for the course now.

So when you complete the survey, please use this simple analogy. George and I have likened this process to the driving test – and what we are proposing here is what should be trained, what should be in the test, the format of delivering the knowledge and skill and how the apprentice should be examined. We don’t expect everyone to be Lewis Hamilton here and drive an F1 car around Brands Hatch – but they need to be roadworthy and of an acceptable basic standard that employers can up-train if required for their own standards and requirements to suit their brand positioning and price point. So please help us and have your say – it’s never been more important. 

Click on the links to view the draft apprenticeship standards for beauty therapy. Then leave your feedback in the short survey. There are separate surveys for employers and training providers