Thinking of becoming an apprenticeship employer? Salon owner, Sarah Foster from Francesco Group Telford, answers all of your burning questions about hairdressing apprenticeships.
We understand that employing apprentices might be unknown territory for some. That’s why this National Apprenticeship Week, we have asked Sarah Foster from the ground-breaking Francesco Group franchise to tell us everything you need to know about employing an apprentice. From the huge return on investment, the day to day support, to the highlights of the hairdressing apprenticeship process.
Sarah started her journey with Francesco Group as an educator and assessor before fulfilling her dream of owning a popular salon. She gives you a 360-degree view of employing apprentices and exactly what it entails.
Can you describe the return on investment you get when working with and training up apprentices?
I have five apprentices in the salon at the moment, ranging from first-year to third-year apprentices. And I would say around 30% of my profit comes from the apprenticeship category, so the return on investment can be huge.
My second-year apprentice, on average, is bringing around £250 a week. And that is just purely on doing blow-dries. So, for example, we do £10 blow-dries to get speed and practice. This works well for clients because when they want a mid-week treat for themselves, it’s an affordable way for them to get that. On the other hand, a hairdressing apprenticeship is also great for the apprentice to build their skills and start getting that column of clients ready to start doing more complex styles.
So it is an excellent return on investment. But you also have to remember we also have to put in a lot of time and investment to develop our apprentices, too. I can’t stress that enough, it is an investment, and you have to be prepared to invest in an apprentice’s future to get the best outcome.
Describe the role of an employer in the apprenticeship process?
The role of an employer is to offer support and opportunity for your apprentice to grow. You need to give them the chance to build that column of clients and continually invest in their education. You have to give them ongoing training and development even beyond the hairdressing apprenticeship.
The benefit of being part of Francesco Group is that we also have our training academies, so there’s a close relationship with the salon and the training provider to build the apprentices skills. For example, my third-year apprentice will be out of the salon with the training academy for three weeks, perfecting her advanced cutting and styling skills on a vardering course. When she comes back, she’ll have more confidence to grow and develop.
Has investing in apprentices helped you retain talent? If so, could you describe how?
I can give you an example. My senior stylist, Beth, started her journey with me on a first-year hairdressing apprenticeship. She’s been with me all the way through owning a franchise. So actually recruiting her as an apprentice five years ago, now making it to senior stylist, she’s been able to grow that base of skills and clients from day one.
Aside from the technical aspects of hairdressing, we have improved her confidence level and skillset so she can grow with the salon. She understands how to be professional, how things work in this salon, how to do a proper consultation and help our clients, making the perfect fit as a Senior Stylist here.
It just showcases to the rest of the team that the opportunities are available and you can grow and excel within the business.That’s how I believe employing an apprentice should work.
What is your process for employing an apprentice?
One important thing for me is even though we ask for a CV, we know that if someone has just left school, there might not be a lot on there yet. So, we look for passion, desire and enthusiasm for this role. We need to know that you really want this.
If they’re school leavers, I tend to interview them with a parent or guardian. I do that because I think it’s much as an investment that the parents also understand and have a big influence over their children’s lives and futures. Some want them all to go down the sixth form or other academic pathways, but I think it’s essential to show their parents the value of this pathway and make sure we have their buy-in too.
When someone comes in to interview, we explain the structure and how the qualification works. I show them folders of previous apprentices’ work and get them to chat with them, so they get a full overview of what to expect.
After that we do a trade test and get them in to just have a day or so to experience the salon and give them a taste of what’s to come. It’s important for them to be fully prepared and really know that they 100% want to do this and then we can give them the support to flourish.
If you could share some advice with an employer that is considering apprenticeships, what would that be?
They need to be clear about how it works. So that’s understanding how the qualification runs with their training provider, understanding the investment they are making, and really being prepared to dedicate yourself to growing your apprentice.
If you’re not prepared to really invest in growing your learner and providing opportunities at the end, you’re really doing a disservice to both your business and the apprentice.
Do you have a favourite apprenticeship story that you’d like to share?
I want to share my personal journey. My dream from a young age was to become a hairdresser and have my own salon. I am living proof that ”dreams can come true”
I started as a mature learner at the age of 19. I found a small independent salon to start my apprenticeship and I was lucky enough to work alongside the small team, consisting of the salon owner and one other stylist. I trained with a local training provider and used to go on day release for my theory and practical training.
Over a 3 year period, I completed my NVQ Level 2 & NVQ Level 3 Hairdressing Apprenticeship. The wage then was £2.45 per hour and I had to make some sacrifices to continue with my journey (no holidays/nights out with friends). I was inspired by the salon owner, Kelly, throughout my apprenticeship. Every day was full of laughter and a huge emphasis on ensuring the client journey was a great one from start to finish. This is something I have tried to continue with throughout my salon life – you should enjoy what you do!
The support and training I was given made a lasting impression on me and I decided to pursue a career in Teaching and Assessing. I completed my Teaching Degree with the support of Francesco Group at Stafford University. I feel privileged to share my knowledge and experience within the hairdressing industry with my apprentices during my Monday training sessions in the salon. Supporting others on their journey is so rewarding!
Finally, after a lot of hard work and commitment, the day came that I had my own salon and my own fabulous #fgfamily. I have continued to invest in my personal training by recently becoming a qualified Loreal Colour Specialist. I have also enjoyed sharing my knowledge with my team and ensuring they feel confident and comfortable with colour.
I think the important thing is to remember the apprenticeship is only the start of your journey!