2 mins


The NHBF’s recent Careers at the Cutting Edge report painted a damning picture of a beauty skills and recruitment crisis. Chief executive Richard Lambert gives us the lowdown

You recently released a report into skills shortages in hair and beauty. What were the most surprising findings?

“I think the sheer scale of unfilled vacancies. We also knew there was some dissatisfaction with college courses, but I don’t think we quite realised the extent of that.

“There is this gap between what employers expect and would like from somebody coming out of college, and what the colleges are producing. Employers are looking at college-leavers and thinking they’ve not necessarily got the full technical skills needed but, more particularly, they’ve not got those interpersonal skills.

“The ability to communicate with a client, to interact with members of a team and to deal with the physical demands of working in a salon for a full day, five or six days a week are so important to emplyers.”

What needs to change in order for courses to improve?

“The main message that keeps coming back to us is that there is no substitute for hands-on work. What the colleges really need is more emphasis on the importance of hands-on experience in the salon.

“We know with T-Levels coming in, which will be the Government’s preferred route for people to go into vocational education, there is a very strong element of a requirement to spend time in a practical working environment. So, we’ve got to make the most of that opportunity and maximise how we can use that.”

How has the rise in online short courses affected the industry?

“We’d like to see a greater emphasis on regulated qualifications. I have no issue with the concept of short courses, but some of them are missold.

“When people are being told they can do a one-day course or a weekend course and be completely qualified, it’s scamming the people who actually do the course because they’re not getting what they think they’re getting. It’s also potentially putting the consumer at risk because you’ve got people thinking they’re qualified for a job when they aren’t.”

Why is the industry seeing a rise in experienced workers moving to other sectors?

“The hard fact is that during the lockdowns, people had to find other forms of work because they just weren’t getting the money in, and what they discovered was that it was actually relatively easy to find a job that will pay more.

“The main issue for retaining people is that this is a relatively low-wage industry, but it’s a low-wage industry that requires significant qualifications and less sociable hours.”

What needs to happen now within the industry?

“What we need to focus on now is solutions.

The solutions to this are going to take time.

There is this virtuous circle and all those areas need to be tackled to try to make things better.

“No one organisation can do it on its own, so this is going to be a challenge for all the industry bodies to work on together. It’s for us to now try to persuade the Government and other institutional bodies to help where they can. Things won’t change quickly but that doesn’t mean that things can’t change.”

This article appears in July 2022

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July 2022
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