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Training and employment opportunities for a U.K. hairdresser

A successful U.K. hairdresser can obtain employment with numerous organisations, as well as in one of the 36,000+ salons. She or he can even become self-employed, if so desired. However, the person must first become a qualified hairdresser. To do this, the person must start out as a trainee/junior hairdresser, or attend college, or obtain some form of apprenticeship. The person then acquires various levels of qualifications as she or he progresses through career stages and training courses.

Required skills

Different jobs require using different levels of skills, knowledge, and responsibility. Basically, the level of responsibility and skills required go up as the pay rate and other benefits increase. Although a person is required to register as a hairdresser, no law requires a hairdresser to attain Qualification Vocational Credits (QVC). However, it is highly recommended by Habia. Habia is the non-profit organisation that sets the government approved standards for the hair, barbering, and African-Caribbean hairdressing industry. Habia also sets the standards for the beauty, nails, and spa therapy industry. The QVCs were known as NVQs/SVQs until August 1, 2010. The NVQs/SVQs qualifications are now in the process of being converted to the updated QVC standards set by Habia. The QVCs are divided into various levels of skill and knowledge, just as the NVQs were. Employers use the QVC levels to help determine whether or not a hairdresser will likely be able to adequately perform the duties of a specific job. It usually takes at least a QVC equivalent to the old NVQ/SVQ level 3 to gain employment in any of the hairdressing opportunities outside of a salon. It takes the equivalent of a NVQ/SVQ Level 2 to gain employment in a salon.

Earning as you learn

If a person enters by working as a trainee/junior in a salon, then he or she receives on the job training while also attending college on day release. The trainee usually gets paid a low wage, plus tips and commissions. The person who enters through an apprenticeship or advanced apprenticeship also receives structured training with an employer. Apprentices get paid and may receive tips and commissions while in training. Although a recent survey found that the average apprentice wage was £170 a week, the pay will depend on the sector in which you work. It will also depend on the area you live in and what stage of the apprenticeship you are in. However, you must be paid a minimum of £95 per week.

However, a person can also enter the field by attending appropriate qualification college courses either full-time or part-time. A person can take college courses for QVC levels 1-3 in Hairdressing or Levels 2-3 in Barbering. While Level 1 covers the basic introductory skills needed as an assistant hairdresser, Level 2 covers the essential skills needed by a hairdresser. The more advanced hairdressing techniques and management skills are covered by Level 3.

There are also courses that provide higher-level qualifications, which cover Levels 4-6. For instance, there is the Business and Technology Council’s Honour National Certificates and Diplomas, and Foundation degrees in hairdressing. City & Guilds Level 4 Higher Professional Certificates or Diplomas are also available for Technical Salon Management. Many hairdressers expand or combine their qualifications to include beauty therapy and salon management. BA/BSc Honours Degree can also be attained, if the person is willing to commit to an additional 12-15 months of study once she or he has obtained a Foundation degree.

Early experience

Hairdressers may specialise in particular styles and clients, such as working with African-Caribbean styles only. However, they will all have to start out their careers by learning the basic techniques of hairdressing and barbering. This includes client consultation, conducting skin testing for allergies, shampooing and conditioning hair, and blow-drying. It also includes trimming, cutting, layering, or thinning hair, colouring, perming, and styling hair. The hairdresser trainee will also learn about diagnosing hair and scalp problems, putting up hair, pinning hair, and accessorising hair for special occasions.

According to Habia, new trainees spend most of their time greeting customers, washing towels, keeping the salon clean, and replenishing stock. They also spend time closely observing experienced stylists and washing hair. Once trainees gain experience, they start practising the techniques they have observed on mannequins, and eventually start practising on client models. A junior hairdresser may typically cover reception duties, booking appointments, and handling money, as well as learning the basic hairdressing techniques. Senior hairdressers will usually be responsible for recruitment, training, ordering salon supplies, and cashing up.

Career prospects

Once a hairdresser is fully qualified, she or he may work in hotels, hospitals, and care homes. Or the hairdresser may choose to work with cruise liners, film and photographic studios and sets, prisons, or Armed Forces bases. The hairdresser may choose self-employment, either working from home, or becoming mobile. Another option the qualified hairdresser has is to rent a chair in a salon, or to open her or his own salon. If the hairdresser has combined the hairdressing qualifications with those for beauty therapy, she or he may work in a spa. Those who combined their hairdressing qualifications with salon management may choose to stop doing hair treatments and simply manage a salon instead. There are innumerable training and employment opportunities for a U.K. hairdresser who chooses to become highly qualified and successful.