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The good, the bad and the ugly of hairdressing apprenticeships

Sarah Oglesby - May 22, 2019 Hairdressing Education, Salon & Business Advice

The good, the bad and the ugly of hairdressing apprenticeships

It’s that time when we hand over the blogging reins to our Global Ambassador, Edward Hemmings of Alan d Hairdressing Education. This month, he’s turning his focus to apprenticeships from an employer’s perspective.

The wrong kind of apprentice employer…

I’m always on the hunt for like-minded employers to build partnerships with. It’s brilliant – and incredibly encouraging – when you encounter someone who shares your approach and excitement about the potential of apprenticeship schemes.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t happen all the time. Often, I come across salon employers who don’t understand how apprenticeships work. Worse still, they employ an apprentice for entirely the wrong reasons. The following genuine snippets of conversation clearly demonstrate some of the major misconceptions that – in my view – have a negative impact on the future of the hairdressing industry as a whole.

“It’s a cheap way of having a shampooist and tea-maker.”

“You can’t take an apprentice over the age of 18.”

“They can work a couple of days a week here and go to college on their day off.”

“They get trained in a year.”

“I’ve heard I can get paid £1000 if I take a person from college.”

“They’re not worth the hassle.”

“They’re so demanding.”

…and the right

Fortunately, it certainly isn’t every salon owner who feels like this. At Alan d Hairdressing Education, we’ve built strong and lasting relationships with our loyal employers over 25 years of offering apprenticeship training – and everyone we work with understands the true value of apprenticeship schemes.

So, what do we look for in an employer partner?

To work with us, you’ll need to be the type of owner who sees each new apprentice as your potential top stylist, art director or salon manager. You need to be thinking:

“Perhaps this individual will be the person who buys my business when it’s time to take a step back.”

Add to that, we’re looking for employers who think that offering 20% ‘off-the-job’ training is the bare minimum, not the maximum that you’re willing to give.

Unravelling the mystery behind EPAs and length of schemes

In my experience, if the top reason that salon owns fail to engage apprentices is apathy, fear about funding comes a close second. Gripped with nightmarish fantasies about HMRC knocking at the door, many salon owners worry that employing an apprentice will just too much trouble.

Actually, when you break it down, the rules are simple. The new apprenticeship standard has an end point assessment (EPA); if your apprentice doesn’t pass, they don’t qualify. This is great news for the industry and bad news for poor providers! The EPA is a 6-hour exam condition trade test (3 hours for barbers) assessed by an outside and highly qualified hair professional.

As demonstrated by the conversation snippets above, another common misconception surrounding apprenticeship schemes relates to their length. And no, they don’t just last a year!

For the Level 2 programme, apprentices need a bare minimum of around 13 months before sitting the new EPA – but a time frame of 18-24 months is the norm, and will give your apprentice the opportunity to develop the skills they need to smash their qualification.

Getting to grips with funding

For an apprentice aged 16-18 – provided you employ less than 50 people and have a payroll of less than £3million – you don’t need to contribute anything as the government will pay 100% of the funding directly to the provider. In fact, you’re entitled to a grant of £1000 paid in 2 equal amounts. Remember, your apprentice must:

  • Work a minimum of 30 hours per week (plus training)
  • Have a contract of employment
  • Receive a payslip
  • Be paid at least the apprentice wage

If your apprentice is over 19, you don’t receive a grant. However, for the first year, you are only required to pay the apprentice wage. In year 2, they must then be paid the appropriate NMW for their age. They must also make a 5% contribution to the government funding paid to their provider, in this instance £350 (out of a total of £7000).

At Level 3, things are simplified further as there is no EPA:

  • The minimum time frame is approximately 13 months. If your apprentice is still under 19, you’ll get a second grant and will still only need to pay the apprentice wage.
  • Over 19s won’t get a grant, but the contribution drops to approximately only £150. Again, the apprentice wage only need be paid for the first 12 months of the qualification.

Supercharge your apprenticeship scheme with MHD

And what about the requirement for 20% off the job training? You’ll be pleased to hear that’s relatively simple too. Think of it as 4 days at work and 1 day at a provider as a basic minimum. Then add time for all the other training you offer – including time with MHD.

As one of the UK’s leading training providers, we use MHD to enhance delivery of our off-the-job training – and it’s proving to be an incredibly valuable resource. Alan d educators love MHD when it comes to group learning, as it enables students to learn together and have the opportunity to discuss technique and results.

Our employer partners are also using MHD to power in-salon training sessions. It’s a brilliant tool that’s packed with high quality content and industry-leading technology. What’s more, it enables you to deliver standardised training, which can only be good for your apprentice’s education and your business.

If you’d like to find out more about partnering with Alan d Hairdressing Education, please contact me directly on

MHD is home to 500+ top quality hairdressing & barbering tutorial – giving hairdressing students and salon teams access to a high quality training platform that includes personalised training programmes and evidences learning – and we’re offering fantastic discounts to help you out in these extraordinary times.

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