Apprenticeships in crisis?

Salon Smart debates the recruitment challenges facing salon owners right now

Are you having difficulty finding new apprentices? Salon Smart 2017 will be addressing the apparent shortage of 16-year-olds – traditionally a fertile source of new salon recruits – as the industry deals with Government legislation that has seen the school leaving age rise from 16 to 18.

Since 2015, it has become compulsory for 16-year-olds to complete another two years in education – either in a school or college, or by taking up a part-time training course or an apprenticeship.

Apprenticeships, of course, used to be central to hairdressing recruitment and training – a way for young people to enter work by learning on the job. But the National Minimum Wage and, more recently, the National Minimum Apprenticeship Wage have seen employers’ contributions to the cost of apprenticeships rise considerably. What’s more, new funding bands are to be introduced in April 2017 that could result in further strain on a salon’s finances.

For salon owners, the issue with apprenticeships now lies not just the cost, but also the administration involved. “Most would prefer to leave funding with the training providers,” says Hilary Hall, chief executive of the National Hairdressers Federation.

And there are further challenges. For youngsters to be able to leave school before the age of 18, they have to be entered into some kind of vocational training. At the same time, however, schools are being financially incentivised to keep students within the educational sphere. This naturally poses a conflict of interest that is potentially hugely damaging to salons.

For Richard Phillipart, owner of The Boutique Atelier in Cheshire, there has been a direct correlation between more students staying in school and the amount of youngsters applying for apprenticeships in his salon. “We have seen a huge drop in applications since the law was changed,” he says. “Three years ago we had 17 applications a year; two years ago it was nine; last year it was five and so far this year we’ve had none. The kids due to leave this year have never known anything else, so I’m not surprised.”

Richard suspects that schools are no longer promoting apprenticeships as an option – and Angelo Vallillo, creative director of Zullo & Holland and head of the Angelo Vallillo Hair Academy, agrees. “The problem I’m finding is that there’s more funding being put into keeping students in school than into apprenticeships and academies,” he says.

It’s a situation that has made Richard decide to approach apprenticeships differently. “I’m focusing on talking to the parents,” he says. “I want them to realise what a fantastic opportunity hairdressing is.”

Angelo believes the conversation with young people needs to happen a lot sooner – not during their careers meeting at age 18, but when they are 14. “This is when they’re deciding what sort of career they want,” he says. “They then have two years to research and find the right path for them. We need to spread the word and get our industry the right recognition.”

Are you finding it difficult to find new apprentices? Make sure you attend Salon Smart’s new Sunday afternoon session that’s dedicated to finding, recruiting, training and retaining new staff.

Delivering first-hand insight from salons who’ve found (or lost) new apprentices, this important new session will be packed with tried-and-tested ideas for alternative labour sources, insight on successful new approaches to training and development, and plenty of live discussion and debate… it’s going to be a bumper start to Salon Smart 2017!

The Youth of Today
Monday 20 March, 16:10
Salon Smart Mainstage


Salon Smart Weekend Pass £245 PLUS VAT
Ticket hotline: 01434 610944
For more ticket information click here