Guest blog: where have all the good therapists gone?

Good therapists

Sam Pearce, owner and founder of award-winning Potting Shed Spa in Batley, West Yorkshire, shares her views on the recruitment crisis for salons, why people are being put off working in the industry and what the solution might be.  

On the face of it, the beauty industry is deemed as a glamorous place to work, but the hard truth of it is that the industry is brutal.

Unsociable hours, physical work, demanding clientele and historically low pay – why would this be an attractive career opportunity for anyone these days? 

We need to create a culture where the beauty industry is a rewarding career choice, by providing structure, incentives, further development opportunities, buy-ins and profit share opportunities – internal structures within salons and spas can be misleading and more often than not these opportunities don’t become available.

A pecking order in a salon can be demoralising and not something I don’t implement. But what happens when you’ve climbed the internal ladder? The only option, unless you’re offered a partnership within a company, is to branch out on your own.

Why is there a recruitment crisis?

Discounted sites such as Wowcher and Groupon have annihilated our industry. We can’t mass market what it is that we offer and because some have tried, this has resulted in the standards being compromised to deal with demand for a quick buck.

And this has, undoubtedly, affected morale and job satisfaction in the industry – we cannot be a conveyer belt culture. Your staff are your biggest asset and without them you don’t have a business.

The problem we have is that a high percentage of college leavers graduate with beauty qualifications and never work in the industry. Having employed therapists for the past 18 years, it’s really very simple for me to see why this is happening, they’re simply not being taught the skills to make them “employable”.

The archaic qualifications in place mean absolutely nothing these days. The colleges should be preparing them for work in the big wide world, not teaching them the mechanical skills that they then believe is enough to secure a future career. Knowledge is the key.

How can we turn things around?

How do we buck this trend? It’s heart-breaking when keen, fresh-out-of-college students come in for an interview completely convinced that they’re prepared for anything when the reality is very different.

Communication skills haven’t been taught or how to perform at an interview, how to dress and simply how to be. Fast-tracking courses are a real bug bear because the students have paid thousands of pounds to learn “quickly”, and to recoup the costs they dive in head first, with little or no experience about how it works in the real world. They’re unprepared and truly believe what they know is enough.

I’ve re-trained in something every year for the past 18 years. You can’t stand still. You can’t be complacent. You should be fluid and malleable because there’s no quick fix in the beauty industry. The businesses that have stood the test of time in a very competitive market are all doing the same thing, investing in training.

Where do we find great therapists?

Finding staff of a suitable calibre these days is almost impossible. They’re either beyond the point of no return, so disillusioned by their experience, brow beaten and frustrated by the competitive nature of the industry or poorly treated by previous employers.

Recruitment agencies are offering astronomical fees for their services, which 80% of the businesses on the high street simply can’t afford, so additional pressure is put on the team and so the cycle continues.

What we need to do is start at the grass roots. College training is essential and students also need to be are prepared entirely to work in a salon or spa as it is today in 2017, not tired old methods of practice that cover the bare minimum.

Hence, the launch of my new training academy, planned to open 2018. This initiative will provide qualifications that guarantee a future, perhaps working for someone else or instilling in them the confidence to go it alone.

The Potting Shed Spa has earned its reputation with 18 years’ experience in the sector and having more than 20 industry awards. The Greenhouse Training Academy will nurture and grow exceptionally talented therapists who will continue to set the standards within the beauty industry. I’m really excited about nurturing the next generation of therapists. 

Sam PearceDo you agree with Sam’s views? Leave a comment below.