During National Apprenticeship Week, we’ve been catching up with current and former apprentices across the country and today we’re excited to share the stories of three individuals who are currently studying with SAKS Education.
SAKS Education has been moulding apprentices into well-rounded, talented hair and beauty professionals for over 20 years. During this time they have opened their doors to over 6,500 apprentices, training across more than 750 salons. They have followed a unique model whereby all training and learning is done within the salon setting to ensure that learners are always getting the ‘on-the-job’ experience. Additionally, they also have 2 training academies in Darlington and Maidstone where learners can attend if a ‘day release’ learning approach is more suited to the needs of the employer and learner. Saks training programme has been so successful that 86% of learners stay at their training salon after completion.
We asked a series of questions to current apprentices Amy, Elliott and Poppy and learned their thoughts on their apprenticeship experiences.
Amy Rootsey is studying the VTCT Level 2 Diploma for Hair Professionals at Mettyears Day Spa and Hair Salon in Whitstable, Kent.
Poppy Jackson completed her VTCT Level 2 Diploma for Hair Professionals and is now undertaking an apprenticeship with the VTCT Level 3 Diploma in Advanced and Creative Hairdressing.
Elliott Long is working at Sharp & Owen in Gravesend, Kent while studying the VTCT Level 2 Diploma for Hair Professionals.
All of the motivations for choosing an apprenticeship can be varied, but most individuals recognise the benefits that come from the hands-on experience of learning while working in the salon just like Amy shared, “I prefer being at work where I am more hands-on. I know there is a theory side for both, but I feel like you get more experience actually working in a salon.”
We asked Amy, Poppy and Elliott why they chose this industry and their responses align with whatwe often see, individuals who have a passion for hairdressing in their youth find a way into the industry.
Amy explained, “I have always wanted to be a hairdresser. My main focus was that I have been getting grey hair since I was 15 so I feel that I can more often relate to clients than other young people.”
Poppy said, “I have always been interested in hairdressing, and when I got a job as a Saturday girl at 14 my passion really kicked in.”
Elliott stated, “I wanted a job where I could wake up in the morning and look forward to going to work. I was interested in the uniqueness and how personalised it can be. I love how rewarding it is and how much satisfaction you can get by making someone happy.”
We asked all three to share with us what a typical day or week looks like during their apprenticeship and their answers show the variety that can be found from one apprenticeship to the next.
Amy: “I do four days, 30 hours in all. I have recently gone onto the salon floor which I prefer because I am so busy there. I am doing 6 -8 hours of one-to-one training with my manager, but because I now have some of my own clients, I am training all day every day and I love it.”
Poppy: “During a typical week in the salon, I spend 8 hours training with my in-salon assessor and spend the rest of the time doing various jobs to keep the salon running smoothly. However, most of my apprenticeship has been in lockdown so in a typical week, I get on with online courses from the forum that Saks Apprenticeships set up. I also carry out the hot topics work and I have a weekly, if not daily, catch-up with my amazing educator Christina.”
Elliott: “I am in the salon 4 days per week and at Saks Academy one day per week. In the salon my role is to assist the clients and the stylists to ensure everything runs smoothly. I complete all my homework the same week it is set, and I try and do extra work to stay ahead and learn new things. I don’t see it as a chore; I have such a passion for learning and get a buzz from this. I can balance it well with my evenings and home life.”
As an apprenticeship is often the first step towards a fulfilling career, it naturally begs the question as to “what’s next?” We asked these individuals what they plan to do after they complete their apprenticeship and we received the following explanations:
Amy: “I plan to stay at the salon and complete my Level 3 Creative Hair Apprenticeship. I want to carry on doing courses. I did a cutting course in London in October that my manager paid for and I want to continue to update my skills going forward.”
Poppy: “After I complete my apprenticeship, I plan to become a Stylist at Saks Cheadle and build my career at Saks.”
Elliott: “I plan on being a fully qualified stylist and putting all my skills into practise while I build the foundations of my own unique flair as a stylist. I would love to do some barbering courses as well.”
Beyond the next step, we wanted to know about each apprentice’s overall career goal. Each individual illustrated with their response just how unique and personalised your career in Hairdressing could be.
Amy: “I would like to explore bridal and celebrity hair. I would also like to become a colour specialist.”
Poppy: “My overall career goal is to become a Principal Stylist at Saks Cheadle and later in life go on to become an educator at Saks.”
Elliott: “I would love to travel the world. I am always thinking ahead, but for now, I am trying to focus on my apprenticeship this year. I would love to end up in education – I love finding ways to explain new things to people.”
Next, we explored the different facets of the apprenticeship and what components they have each liked best and why. It turns out the hands-on, practical work in the salon that led them to choose an apprenticeship was also one of their favourite parts of the experience.
Amy shared, “I have loved the hands-on training with the people I work with. I have been pushed outside my comfort zone which is great. I love it when my Saks Educator, Holly, comes in to the salon and we spend the day doing training sessions. Holly calls me every week. She checks on my wellbeing, my workbooks and keeps me on track.”
Poppy echoed that sentiment, saying, “My favourite part of my apprenticeship is all of the practical work I get to do in the salon. Saks Apprenticeships have supported me so much and grown my confidence immensely.”
And Elliott confirmed, “I have liked best my salon workplace – how professional it is, how friendly they all are and how they have inspired me throughout my apprenticeship.”
We discovered they were spot on in knowing that they would enjoy the salon environment and working while learning, but we wanted to find out what else they enjoy about their apprenticeship that maybe they weren’t expecting.
Amy told us, “I did not expect to have my own clients as soon as I did, but I absolutely love it. I prefer it because after a year, I didn’t realise my skills were as advanced as they were. I have really surprised myself.”
As for Poppy, she said “I wasn’t expecting to go into lockdown, but I enjoyed it as my Saks Educator, Christina, made all of the work really fun and made sure I had everything I needed to succeed.”
Elliott revealed, “I didn’t realise there were so many different ways of adapting and doing one thing. I didn’t realise there were so many challenges to be mastered in one career!”
Every individual learns and grows through difficulty and challenges, so we were curious to know what these apprentices consider to be the biggest challenge during their apprenticeship journey.
In response to this question, Amy considered, “Well, I would say the lockdown. It has put everybody back. I am not as developed in my cutting skills. I got a new block from Saks Apprenticeships during lockdown which has helped, but trying to work at home is hard.”
Poppy said, “The biggest challenge for me during my apprenticeship has been my confidence. However, Saks has given me the confidence in my ability that I needed to ensure I would achieve what I am capable of. The support in my training and in my classes has really helped me to overcome my confidence issues. The resources provided by Saks Apprenticeships and the support from my educator Christina has been amazing.”
For Elliott it was a specific task, “Answering the phone and doing reception was really difficult for me when I first started my apprenticeship. I feel like I have really overcome this now and don’t feel the anxiety that I used to at the beginning. Kay and Nicola spent so long doing role plays with me to help me practise and sound fluent on the phone, plus just knowing how to communicate with the clients. It is now second nature for me.”
The England lockdown has been mentioned a couple of times, so we asked these three how they have stayed motivated during the different lockdowns and restrictions.
Amy: “My motivation for training during lockdown is to continue and learn as much as I can, so that I can put it into practise when I can return to the salon.”
Poppy: “I have stayed motivated during the lockdowns by remaining grateful, as lots of people don’t have the opportunity I have been given and I think it’s important to remember that.”
Elliott: “It is sometimes hard to get motivated, but I have created a routine and have stuck to it. I get up at the same time each day, I am naturally a very motivated person and make sure I have a daily goal. I have logged on to all the zoom sessions that have been offered to learn new things.”
Knowing everything that they now know, we asked if they would recommend an apprenticeship to someone else and why.
Amy responded, “100% I would recommend it. It has gone so well working with Saks Apprenticeships, even with the pandemic. It is so much better than a college course because you get so much more real day to day to life.”
Poppy stated, “I would 100% recommend an apprenticeship to someone else because it has allowed me to learn whilst being in a working environment which I believe gives you a head start when you become qualified.”
And Elliott rounded out the positive recommendation for apprenticeships sharing, “I would recommend an apprenticeship as it’s great for the hands-on experience and it’s the best of both worlds. You get the support from all areas.”
It’s clear from their responses that SAKS has once again proved to be a fantastic route for apprentices with their dedicated team of professionals continually supporting their learners. It’s a story we have heard time and time again from learners who have studied with them over the years. And in their truly innovative style the pandemic didn’t slow them down either. They developed new and creative ways to help their learners stay motivated and on track, so when life one day returns to some form of normal, they’ll be ready and able to achieve their career goals.