Could promoting neurodiversity in your salon help you attract and retain talented apprentices? With the number of people undertaking apprenticeships halving between 2016 and 2020
, the lack of apprentices could have a long-term impact on the industry.
For HJ's Apprentice Week, we spoke with Chris Quickfall, founder and CEO of Cognassist
, who shares how creating a neurodiverse environment in your salon can help you to retain young hairdressing talent and support them throughout their career.
What is neurodiversity?
Neurodiversity isn't a new term, but isn't widely understood. Neurodiversity acknowledges the natural variation in human cognition and how we think and learn differently. Each of us has a unique experience of the world, and common types of neurodiversity include Dyslexia, ADHD, Autism, and Dyspraxia – to name just a few.
Those who are neurodiverse bring with them a huge range of unique skills that businesses should be looking to invest in. For example, while an individual with dyslexia may have difficulty with reading, they may have incredible ability in other areas, such as visual retention of information and the ability to see the bigger picture. Similarly, individuals with ADHD may have a flair for creativity, resilience and the ability to ‘hyperfocus’ on topics of interest to themselves.
The important thing to remember is everyone is different – we can’t assume particular traits or talents, and it’s vital organisations take a learner-centric approach to every individual journey. Neurodiverse individuals excel in many areas – it should not be considered an obstacle, but more of a superpower!
How promoting neurodiversity can help attract and retain apprentices in your salon
Given that up to 1 in 3 learners are estimated to have hidden learning needs, it is essential that apprenticeship providers are aware of signs and steps to take that will support the apprentice and allow them to reach their full potential.
If we are serious about retaining apprentices and providing them with real skills they can take into their career, we need to ensure every apprentice receives the same high-quality experience and an equal opportunity of success. According to the National Achievement Rates Tables (NARTs), learners with identified learning difficulties and disabilities (LDD) are more likely to drop out of their apprenticeship
Providers need to take active steps to improve retention and support learners’ needs throughout their entire learning journey. It takes commitment from organisations to identify weak points and ensure a joined-up approach, but many in the sector understand what’s at stake and are more than willing to drive positive changes.
How to encourage neurodiversity in your salon
With the hairdressing industry being such a large provider of apprentices, it is crucial that different individuals’ needs are taken into account so that both the apprentice and provider reap the maximum benefits. Whether it’s through a conversation with the learner or digital assessment tools, understanding your learner’s needs from day one is the best way to effectively support individuals.
Create a clear application process
The application process must be made as accessible as possible so that all individuals – regardless of their cognitive needs – are able to demonstrate their skills. This is the first point at which barriers to success can be eliminated. The description of the apprenticeship should be clear and concise while avoiding unnecessary jargon; it is also beneficial to split the requirements into necessary and desired attributes.
Once the apprentice has started, consideration must be given to how they think, work and learn. For example, if the individual has ADHD, it’s important to set realistic and achievable goals for tasks – producing a checklist is a great way for the individual to visualise the steps, allowing them to maintain their attention and reach the end goal of the task.
Implement a neurodiversity policy
Another great way to encourage applications from individuals from a neurodiverse background, and to tap into this pool of untapped talent, is to put a neurodiversity policy in place. This signals your organisation welcomes applications from neurodiverse individuals and will encourage a more diverse range of applications.
While supporting the apprentice in the role, it is vital to strive to have a culture of understanding from the offset. This will encourage individuals to disclose their condition and discuss any necessary reasonable adjustments as they will feel more comfortable doing so. It is important to train your existing staff, providing them with the necessary training to support apprentices from end to end.
There is no doubt that apprentices play a fundamental role in the hairdressing industry. With fears mounting about not enough apprentices going into the industry, there needs to be greater emphasis on not only attracting neurodiverse talent – and tapping into this vast talent pool – but also on ensuring any conditions are identified and appropriately supported.
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