How To Tackle The Hair Industry's Skills and Recruitment Crisis

Published 08th Feb 2024 by hjiadmin

Last year the National Hair & Beauty Federation (NHBF) published its landmark Careers at the Cutting Edge: Tackling The Skills Shortage in The Hair and Beauty Sector report – an independent report written by Pragmatix Advisory Ltd for NHBF. It was based on a survey of 570 businesses and interviews with businesses and education providers.

The report outlined a skills crisis in the hair and beauty sector based on a series of interlinked factors across qualifications and training, recruitment and retention, and financial pressures.

Skills and Recruitment Crisis

Qualification and Training

The number of employees available to take on apprentices has fallen as self-employment has risen, funding has reduced and 16-17 year-olds must stay on in education. Worryingly, if current trends continue, the report forecasts that there will be fewer than 3,400 hair & beauty apprentices in the UK by 2025. In addition, employers are concerned that college leavers lack ‘salon ready’ skills and that the knowledge of some tutors is out of date. A group of businesses were asked their opinion on how to improve college courses: 76% suggested an increase in hands-on salon time and 54% felt that tutors’ skills should be kept up to date.

During our Apprentice Week 2024 (5-11 February), we spoke to hairdressing apprentices across the UK to find out what they want from their apprenticeships, learnt the best way to keep your apprentices motivated, and found out which is best for an apprentice: in-salon or college training.

Recruitment and Retention

As the pandemic left workers reassessing their work-life balance and the cost of living has been rising, many have left the sector in search of higher-paying or more flexible jobs. Therefore, businesses have been left struggling to recruit experienced staff and retain their current team. The report shows that 57% of hair & beauty businesses have unfilled vacancies and more than half of vacancies have taken businesses over 16 weeks to fill.

Financial Pressures

Obstacles standing in the way of business growth from a financial aspect include the current challenging economic conditions, wanting to stay below the VAT threshold and the risk of being subject to more regulations. The data revealed apprentices take on average two to three years to start covering the cost of a full-time minimum wage employee. 60% of those surveyed would be more likely to take on apprenticeships in the government introduced further financial aid. A £3,000 incentive would cost the government £9million/year per 1,000 apprenticeships while funding the minimum wage gap for 19–to 20-year-olds would cost £2.1million/year per 1,000 apprentices.

How the Hair Industry Can Tackle the Skills and Recruitment Crisis

Although there is no single solution to this crisis, the NHBF began looking into measures as a starting point to address the growing problem, such as:

  • Improved college courses
  • Increased funding provision
  • Higher wages
  • Established support network for business owners and professionals

One year on from the report, the NHBF is calling on the hair, beauty, and barbering industries to further unite to continue the progress that has been made after the initial report was published. You can find out more about NHBF Careers At The Cutting Edge Report: One Year On, here.



Published 08th Feb 2024

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