Skills and recruitment crisis

Ellie NHBF

We don’t understand it, because we know hairdressing is an exciting industry to work in, but unfortunately we are seeing the industry we know and love struggle when it comes to recruitment – which is ultimately the outcome of a skills shortage. But why? The National Hair & Beauty Federation (NHBF) is calling on the entire hair & beauty industry to pull together to tackle the issues. These threats to the future of the sector have been identified in a new report: Careers at the cutting edge: tackling the skills shortage in the hair and beauty sector, commissioned by the NHBF from Pragmatix Advisory.

The report highlights multiple interlinked factors that have been steadily growing over time: 

  • Many are familiar with the fall in the number of apprentices coming into the industry over the last five years due to 16-17 year-olds having to stay at school, the rise in self-employment (meaning fewer employers to take on apprentices) and lower levels of funding. Worryingly, if current trends continue, the report forecasts that there will be fewer than 3,400 hair & beauty apprentices in the UK by 2025.
  • Employers are concerned that college leavers lack ‘salon ready’ skills and that the knowledge of some tutors is out of date.
  • The report shows that 57% of hair & beauty businesses have unfilled vacancies and more than half of vacancies have taken businesses over 16 weeks to fill. Some experienced staff are leaving the sector, in some cases, to go to better paid roles elsewhere including other parts of retail.
  • Financial pressures on businesses are still high following the pandemic. Rising business costs such as National Insurance contributions, National Minimum Wage and National Living Wage, as well as the huge increase in energy costs means employers are cutting other costs wherever they can. Almost half of those who took part in the survey think that it can take two to three years in the salon before a college graduate covers their costs, and so are unwilling to take any on at this present time.

Richard Lambert, NHBF chief executive says, “Individually many of these issues have been around for a long time and so aren’t any surprise, but the report provides the evidence and statistics that show the true extent of the problem.  We need to start tackling them. As there is no one cause, there is no one solution – we need a combined approach targeted at Government, education providers and the industry itself.

But this is way too big a job for any one organisation. We have already started talking to other organisations and key companies about how we can collaborate. As an industry we need to be having discussions around industry self-regulation to professionalise the sector, discussions with the education sector around improving college courses, lobbying for further financial support from the government around training and all of us working together to change schools, career advisors and the public’s perception of the sector as a career option.

The NHBF will continue to work alongside industry partners to address all the issues highlighted by the report. It is also about to launch a programme of business support initiatives and activities to help Members take their business to the next level.

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