Mandy Durkin is National Training Manager at Saks Education, where she has worked for the last 17½ years. Saks apprenticeships were first established 19 years ago, with a focus in the beauty sector but shortly after expanding into hairdressing and barbering. Mandy was the first hairdressing educator for Saks, and now manages a team of 30 hairdressing educators.
Mandy describes how Saks apprenticeships follow a unique model in that the training is fully salon- based, completely out of the classroom. This was a model initially introduced for beauty therapy, due to employers’ demand for highly skilled therapists. Saks listened to the employers and have now expanded this model to include hairdressing. Mandy believes this model is beneficial to learners as well as employers: ‘Because learners are in the workplace, they take it seriously, it helps drive progress’.
Learners still get a lot of support with training in the salon, with an educator visiting for a full day once a month to track progress and set a training plan for the next 4 weeks. In between visits, learners can access a virtual learning environment with online induction modules and a host of resources.
Mandy’s passion for education and apprenticeships is routed in her own experience as a young person, with the Youth Training Scheme (YTS), a government initiative to provide school leavers with on-the-job training. Following this, Mandy worked in a salon in Middleborough for 16 years. A firm believer in continual education, Mandy undertook her assessor qualifications whilst working in the salon. Here she found her interest in teaching and developing others. Impressively, Mandy then studied part-time for a certificate in Education at university, alongside working full-time and raising a young daughter.
15 years later and Mandy is still passionate about learning: ‘You don’t do all your learning while you’re young, you continue learning’. Mandy exemplifies this, having more recently completed a Level 3 End Point Assessor qualification and a Level 5 in Quality Assurance.
When asked what her favourite part of working with apprentices was, Mandy replied: ‘Every day is different. Every day is a school day. You learn from the apprentices’. Mandy also enjoys watching people develop. One of her apprentices is now an educator, and another is a technician with L’Oréal.
Saks Education work with approximately 400 Saks and independent salons across England, covering both hair and beauty. Mandy believes that apprenticeships are the best bridge into a lot of industries, certainly for beauty and hairdressing: ‘It’s what employers need and want- people with real life experience’. Although, she highlights: ‘it’s not just hairdressing, but customer service, professionalism- soft skills- that’s what makes a good hairdresser, not just cutting hair’.
Mandy’s advice to prepare anyone who is considering starting an apprenticeship: ‘Don’t be afraid to fail. Failing is not failing, it stands for First Attempt In Learning’.