How do You Find the Right Apprentices

by Matthew Batham / April 21, 2017

Apprenticeships are recognised as possibly the best way to learn a trade, but for an employer they also represent a major investment. So how can salon owners find apprentices who are committed to learning the craft of hairdressing?

Says Yasmin McMail, co-owner and director of Rainbow Room International George Square, Glasgow: “I look for someone with real passion for this amazing industry, a passion for fashion and art and desire to work for our company. A genuine interest, positive attitude and enthusiasm needs to shine through to work for us. With our education programme we can train most people to be a fantastic hairdresser but it’s difficult to train attitude.”

Finding this calibre of trainee has become more of a challenge in recent years acknowledges Yasmin. “A couple of years ago we hit a dry spell and decided we had to change our way of enticing people to come to join us. We contacted all schools and since then we’ve built up brilliant relationships allowing us to go to them when they are holding a careers day. We send a team of people along, making sure we also have an apprentice with us as they will be of similar age to seem less intimidating and make it easier to be approached. This allows us to get our name out there and tell them about the amazing career opportunities in hairdressing. We feel this is definitely the way forward. We now have a steady influx of people applying for an apprenticeship which is amazing!”

Linking up with local schools

Recently, Ronnie Marshall, owner of Byron Hairdressing in Kirkcaldy, was invited to join an Employability Fayre at local Kirkcaldy High School, suggesting this school, at least, recognises hairdressing as a career.

But securing that invitation has taken years of re-educating the teaching profession, according to Ronnie.

“Over the past decade we have been pushing at the doors of all the local schools to make ourselves and the industry better known, to gain a little bit of credibility for hairdressing,’ says Ronnie, who is also an educator for L’Oréal. ‘It’s about opening a dialogue so we can show them hairdressing is a promising occupation with great prospects, not a dumping ground for kids with challenging behaviour. Not every school is listening, but we’ve now got contacts in a few where we’ve been able to show the amazing, creative opportunities we have made for young people over the past couple of decades.”

While some schools don’t even acknowledge Ronnie and his team’s repeated attempts to make contact, the situation has improved.

“We were invited to take part in Kirkcaldy’s first ever Employability Fayre,” says Ronnie. “And we were ready.”

Talking to students and teachers

It was a positive experience, giving Ronnie not just the opportunity to reach out to many of the young people who visited his stand, but also to talk to the teachers in person. He believes his success was down to prepping for the day.

“I went personally to show the school how important we considered this link but I also took along one of our assistants, Megan Paterson, so the pupils had a younger person to relate to,” he explains. “It is all part of our ongoing strategy to engage with schools more positively, and that includes meeting with teachers and parents, offering opportunities to pupils hopeful of becoming stylists and giving demonstrations of skills at various events, including fundraisers.”

Sarah Morrissey, salon director, Sarai Hair and Beauty in Crowthorne, Berkshire, says she has had considerable difficulties finding apprentices, and so tried numerous approaches.

“We contacted every senior school within a five-mile radius that was on a bus route to the salon. We spoke to the heads in charge of the year 11 students and designed an ad for their school noticeboard. Some of our team attended the local senior school and got involved in the careers evening held at the beginning of the year. We’re doing this again ahead of the September intake.”

Through all their efforts the team realised that many students were put off entering a hairdressing apprenticeship because of the low pay. “Our strategy was to advertise the fact that we pay more than the apprentice wage and that after 12-months apprentices are paid the minimum wage set for their age. This shows our commitment to their futures and helps them to feel appreciated,” says Sarah.

Finding great apprentices is only the start of a successful working relationship, however. In the next issue of HJ we chat to salon owners and apprentices about how to keep them and develop them into valuable team members.




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