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Salon owner Jo shares the benefits of Apprentices – National Apprenticeship Week

At the young age of just 13, Jo Halls started her career as a Saturday girl in a local salon washing and sweeping hair. Fast forward to today and she’s the proud owner of Boniface Hair & Beauty Salon in Sittingbourne where she encourages the next generation of hair professionals through apprenticeships. In the last 15 years, Jo has taken on over 12 apprentices; she currently has 1 apprentice and 2 trainees learning with her at Boniface. “Apprentices have been the most important part of the growth of my salons and I have always tried to create a creative, loyal and hardworking team,” Jo says, as she explains the benefits to both her business and herself personally regarding her apprentices. “When taking on an apprentice, you will gain a lot as you see their growth while you help this young person fall in love with the hair and beauty industry. It is a very fulfilling thing to do!”

With the complete transition to the new Professional Standards for apprenticeships, many salon owners have reported that they’ve seen a rise in the quality of apprentices coming through their doors. The new structure has been developed by groups of employers that established the skills, knowledge and behaviours needed for someone to comfortably continue in the salon environment once they’re qualified. For Jo, it’s given her the chance to structure her training to fit her business model. “I have put a tailored structure in place for all my apprentices. I have made my business successful by hiring individuals that have gone through an apprenticeship with me as they become a loyal and knowledgeable member of my staff. It is important for me to have a set structure and plan that can be implemented while always taking into account the apprentice as they all learn differently.”

Jo works closely with her training provider partner for apprenticeships, TNB. The educational journey starts with Health & Safety training followed by Customer Service. Jo shares, “I then spend time deciding what the level of ability is for the apprentice. In the beginning, we put a lot of time into training on things like shampoo procedures and blow drying so they become proficient and can then quickly start to have a ‘hands-on’ experience in the salon.”

Not only does an apprenticeship equip learners with valuable work experience and a qualification, they will also acquire and develop a range of ‘soft skills’ to accelerate their hairdressing career. These skills are arguably just as important as the technical skills as they can enhance the way apprentices interact with their managers, co-workers and customers. We asked Jo how she teaches her apprentices these skills to make sure they not only have the technical capabilities of the job, but the other skills needed to work in a professional setting. “I like my apprentices to concentrate on the clients’ happiness and I give them bullet points to use in the consultation, at the shampoo basin or during a manicure. Then, I take time to praise them when they use these bullet points and we evaluate the level of happiness they have created with the salon clientele. We have team huddles and 1:2:1 meetings to offer pointers and give them role play opportunities if they need them.”

This year has made it extremely challenging for apprentices to carry on their studies, with End-point Assessments being rescheduled and centres and salons closing their doors. Many training providers and employers have transitioned into a remote delivery model where possible, using online resources, video calling and web-based e-portfolio platforms to set and assess work. Jo has worked hard to keep her apprentices motivated during lockdown, explaining, “We have used Teams, Zoom and WhatsApp to keep connected and I have bought each of them ‘Dolly Heads’ to practice on at home. They also practice on family members and have had the time to really concentrate on the theory and assignments.”

We are hopeful that over the coming weeks and months, government regulations will allow salon owners to look at their key role in the employment of apprentices, and that moving forward, apprentices will be key to supporting a new way of working. We asked Jo if she could share some advice for employers considering taking on apprentices and she enthuses, “Do it! You will get more back than you think you will! Look for someone that fits your salon culture, you can teach someone to cut hair but you can’t teach someone to have the personality that fits.”