When it comes to hands-on learning, there are many avenues to take when choosing the right place for a hairdressing apprenticeship. Deciding between a smaller salon, a hairdressing academy or a college can seem daunting, but we asked two experts to discuss the pros of the most typical places to train as an apprentice to make the decision a bit easier for newcomers.
In a College or Dedicated Hairdressing Academy
Robert Eaton, Creative Director for Russel Eaton Hair and British Hairdresser of the Year 2021
Generally a salon-based apprenticeship is something that is as practical as possible and is the most rounded way to start your career. Having said that, so much has changed in the industry now that I actually think that there is a lot that needs adding to an apprentice hairdresser’s knowledge for when they do go out into the world of work.
Hairdressing is, of course, a practical skill and you need to learn about everything that relates to the particular element of hairdressing that you want to go into. Whether it’s colour, cutting, dressing hair – you need all of these diverse skills to become a great hairdresser. Some elements of hairdressing will of course need a bit more of a knowledge-based or classroom environment, as it’s crucial to understand what happens from a technical colour aspect in terms of the chemistry behind it. And if, for example, you’re going into trichology, you’ll need to commit a huge amount of time, focus and dedication to complete the course for a few years. In addition to learning about the practical side, I also think all hairdressers should have a good understanding of how to market themselves, including social media skills.
Another advantage is that if someone has come into the industry a little bit later, then an academy or school environment may be an easier option as they work a bit more intensively over a shorter period of time, learning as much as they can about the hairdressing industry during that time.
Whatever option you choose, hairdressing is an amazing career to go into. Plus, there is so much education available out there - more so now than ever with so much education being online, making it so accessible. So whether you choose to work in a salon or go and learn at an academy, the opportunities are endless.
Edward Hemmings of Alan D Hairdressing
Whilst we strongly believe that Hairdressing & Barbering education is best served in as practical manner as possible and in-salon offers great opportunities to learn, there is good reason to use an academy for learning, particularly one that creates a realistic working environment and knows how bring out the best from ‘millennials’.
Very often, in the eyes of an apprentice, the salon or barbershop is a difficult place for learning those initial cutting, setting and colouring techniques with other team members watching and ready to pounce. Add the other parts of an apprenticeship programme, including Functional Skills in English and Maths, Safeguarding, British values and so on, it's the training provider that is better placed to provide the off-the-job training. In our experience it also provides a reward for the apprentice, in our case the majority of apprentices join us for a whole week once a month, where they can immerse themselves in all things hair without the daily pressures of salon life.
"Employers participating in apprenticeship programmes continually state the value gained by the business and the apprentice as they work together," says Alan Woods VTCT
chief executive. "Regardless of age, apprentices show they have made a decision to invest in their future. They are motivated, hardworking and willing to commit to the opportunity to gain knowledge, skills and experience, knowing that by the time they take their end-point assessment
, they will have achieved both a valued qualification and the requisite knowledge and skills to enter the profession of hairdressing or barbering.
A Salon Chain Academy
Anne Veck, Award Winning Hairdresser
For us, the answer is easy - do an apprenticeship within a salon. You will not only learn the practical skills but also what working in a salon is really like together with the theory of hairdressing over a period of about two years. Working together, the salon and the training provider that they partner with will give you much better training than your local college. Many schools or career teachers may sometimes recommend going to college full time but unfortunately, many college trained hairdressers can find it difficult to get a job in a salon because the salon has to retrain them. As someone who is salon trained you will be immediately employable, probably by the salon you are working in.
Digging a little deeper, you might choose to do your apprenticeship in an independent salon or in a larger salon group with its own academy. In either case, you'll do the Hair Professional Apprenticeship Standard which includes a qualification (called NVQ for now but this name will change in a year or two). This really is a personal choice – do you think you'll do best in a small team or thrive in a bigger environment? Whichever you choose, the Standard features an independent end point assessment which protects you against any bias or favouritism.
About studying at college, there's a big change around the corner. From 2023, the government is introducing technical education T-Levels for hairdressing for 16-18s. These will take two years and are the equivalent of three A-Levels. They will include a considerable amount of work experience in a salon but salon owners like us are afraid this won't be sufficient.
Hairdressing is a wonderful industry and career choice. Increasingly it is being recognised for the serious profession it really is. Once you have achieved your Hair Professional Standard you can then go on to get the Advanced Standard and you will be well on your way in a career of learning, excitement and of making people happy, that you will love to be part of.
Kerry Mather, Owner of KJM Salons in Fleet
I feel I can give a first-hand opinion on academies vs. salons for hairdressing apprentices, because I started my hairdressing career at college on a full-time course. I truly loved it from day one; however, I felt there wasn’t enough practical, hands-on training.
The practical sessions in academies can be very good, with a great selection of models/head blocks and training tools and the teaching is thorough and comprehensive. However, I feel there’s no substitute for being in a busy salon surrounded by talented, creative hairdressers and young hairdressers need to be inspired at all times and will always benefit from great role models.
Adam Bryant, Academy Director at RUSH Academy
I would say learning in a salon or academy environment benefits the student greatly in all aspects of their training. When a student learns in a salon environment, it gives them a real insight into salon life and a true to life education, as opposed to sitting behind a desk. When we educate within the RUSH Academy, the students are involved in every aspect of Academy and salon life.
From real life consultations to customer service (answering the phone and booking in models), making teas and coffees to their core training and learning on real life clients – it is all vital experience that they may not receive out with this setting.
I also feel that when learning in a salon environment, it allows the student to take inspiration from those around them and learn from stylists who have worked in the industry for many years. This is how our industry evolves, by sharing our skills and experience with one another and educating the younger generation. It’s an incredibly creative environment to be in and when students are learning in a salon or within our Academy the creativity and passion is so evident and it creates a much higher standard of new stylists.