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A raise in the standards and funding for apprenticeships in hairdressing and barbering

The Hairdressing Professional and Barbering Apprenticeship Standards at level 2 have finally been approved by the Secretary of State for delivery by the Institute, with a substantial increase in the funding band which will help restore apprenticeships. 

The original hair professional standard, which covered hairdressing and barbering as optional pathways, has now been split into two apprenticeship standards:

  • Hairdressing Professional at Level 2
  • Barbering Professional at Level 2


The Hairdressing Professional at Level 2 has been given a revised funding (band 14) of £11,000, an increase of £4,000 per apprentice and the Barbering Professional at Level 2, has been given a revised funding (band 12) of £9,000 an increase of £2,000 per apprentice. 

The Hair Professional Apprenticeship Steering (Trailblazer Employers) Group have provided an enormous amount of evidence and given their time to ensure the revised standard and funding band reflects the breadth of learning and professionalism within our industries.

The revised standard represents a further raising of the bar from the 2016 standard. New content has been included which reflects today’s modern hair salons and barbershops, including Employee Rights and responsibilities, hairdressing/barbershop culture, history, industry codes of conduct, best practice, infection control, ethics, social media, hair types and classification (type 1 straight (Asian hair) to type 4 coily/very curly (afro / texture), maintaining the mental health and wellbeing of self and clients.

Women in power
Caroline Larissey

Caroline Larissey, NHBF director of quality and standards says: “The previous reduced funding band has had a hugely detrimental impact on our industry. This is a huge leap forward for our sector to help address the huge skills shortages we are facing. After two years of battling, and I mean battling on every single point to help Government officials understand and value our creative industries, I am so pleased that we have been able to secure a funding band that truly reflects the breadth and depth of training required for both the hairdressing professional and barbering apprenticeship professional content.

The NHBF has been supporting the hair professional steering group every step of the way, the revised standard represents a further raising of the bar from the 2016 hair professional standard and the revised funding band will enable training providers and employers to attract the right talent into our sector, which will positively impact on skills development, quality of service and the ability of individuals from all communities across the UK to enjoy a fulfilling career in our wonderful sector.” Caroline Larissey

Wendy Cummins at Quiffys Eastleigh says: “as the Trailblazer Chair for the Hair Professional Steering group, I am pleased and delighted to announce the new funding band that has been awarded for our apprenticeships which are £11000 for the professional hairdressing standard and £9000 for Barbering. After a tough few years for our industries this will give us a much needed boost. My thanks to all of the Trailblazers working groups and all parties involved for a great result”.

Andrew Collinge at Collinge & Co says:“As an employer and training provider we are pleased and relieved to see the level of funding has been increased for the training of hairdressing Apprentices. Five years ago there was a significant cut to funding imposed on our sector which has had a devastating effect, sadly resulting in a number Training Providers having to close. With this new funding band now in place we can look to invest in resources, deliver quality training and ensure our apprentices succeed in the art of hairdressing and develop a skill for life”. 

Mandy Lodge–Stewart, NHBF president and Hair Professional Steering Group member says: “This is a step in the right direction, and it is great to see that the government is starting to recognise the contribution our sector makes to GDP and local communities. The new funding bands will have a huge impact on the sector, by supporting providers and employers to raise the quality and standards of what we do. 

For more information on the apprenticeships to date, visit the NHBF Education Hub/ Apprenticeships or the Institute for Apprentices and Technical Education website , apprenticeship search, Hair and Beauty.

Sector background

The hair, beauty and barbering sector is made up of around 46,000 businesses, mostly small and micro businesses operating in communities across the UK. The sector makes a significant contribution to the UK economy, with £5.5 billion spent on services in 2019-20 and consumer spend across the whole sector totalling £27.2 billion in 2018. Salon businesses, led predominantly by female entrepreneurs, provide valuable careers to 257,000 people, more than half aged 18-35, across the UK. The sector enhances the health and wellbeing of local communities and the number of businesses continues to grow.

The NHBF Careers at the Cutting-Edge skills report also outlined the risk that lower levels of funding could affect the diversity of talent attracted to the hairdressing industry. This, in turn, could negatively impact on skills development, quality of service and the ability of individuals from all communities across the UK to enjoy a fulfilling career.

Declining apprenticeship starts

Salons and barbershops have traditionally provided apprenticeship opportunities for thousands of school leavers each year. However, as a sector the annual intake has fallen by 4,500 apprentices in England alone, from 11,500 in 2017/18 to only 7,000 in 2019/20. The sector has a proud tradition of providing hairdressing apprenticeships and is one of the most popular apprenticeship standards in terms of sheer numbers, ranking in twelfth place in the top 100 apprenticeships.

Apprenticeship funding band

The Hair Professional Apprenticeship Steering Group (HPASG), was formed in late 2013 to support the implementation of the new “trailblazer” apprenticeships, following the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning (ASCL) Act in 2011, the Wolf report in 2011 and the Richard review in 2012. The group is made up of a diverse range of employers from across the Hairdressing and Barbering industries, it is also supported by industry specific expert working groups, an assessment working group (hair awarding organisations and end point assessment organisations). The National Hair & Beauty Federation (trade body for around 5,500 salons and barbershops, ESFA apprenticeship intermediary organisation, IfATE directory member) is the group’s facilitator. The original hair professional standard covered both hairdressing and barbering, as optional pathways, this standard has now been split into two apprenticeship standards. 

The hair professional apprenticeship standard was reviewed again recently, and the new standard represents a further raising of the bar from the 2016 standard. However, it is becoming increasingly clear that, if the relevant funding band is not adequate for the new apprenticeship standard, training providers will not be able to deliver it, compounding issues around the recruitment of future talent to the sector.

The Advanced and Creative Hairdressing Professional also has such a poor funding band which prohibits take-up, that it seems only larger employers/ franchises who are in a position to supplement delivery provide it. We are intending to review this standard in 2023 with the hope of securing a sufficient funding band. 

Training providers and impact of reduced funding

The number of apprentices has more than halved over the last five years, training providers are either going out of business, subsidising training or have decided they can no longer financially carry on. 

Training providers have managed to stay afloat in recent years by effectively cross subsidising the apprentices on the lower funding band from the money received from those who were still operating on the higher funding band. However, as these apprentices are now completing their apprenticeships, the higher funding levels are no longer available, and training providers are coming under financial pressure. Through feedback from the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) hair and beauty forum, we understand that training providers are highly concerned that they will simply not be able to continue providing the standard if a lower funding rate is agreed.

Apprenticeship levy and the hair & beauty sector

The apprenticeship levy only applies to those businesses with a wage bill of more than £3 million. The reality is, therefore, that the levy is only really accessed by around 20 larger businesses in the sector, including amongst others, well-known names such as Toni & Guy, Andrew Collinge and the Francesco Group. Almost three-quarters of hair and beauty businesses employ fewer than five people and 94% employ fewer than ten people. This leaves the vast majority of the sector without direct support from the levy. 

A significant provider of apprenticeships

Hairdressing has been listed in the Government’s new national league table that recognises England’s leading small & medium-sized apprenticeship employers, as one of the top 50 SME Apprenticeship Employers 2022 for its commitment to employing apprentices, the creation of new apprenticeships, the diversity of new apprentices, and the progression of apprentices onto further employment. 

Further support for hair & beauty apprenticeships

Apprenticeships are a financial risk for businesses. On average, apprentices take two to three years to start covering the cost of a full-time minimum wage employee. In addition, there is material time cost to employing apprentice. The NHBF Careers at the Cutting Edge skills report also illustrated that qualified employees or salon managers spend 16 hours a week training each apprentice in the salon or barbershop. Based on the median salary of hairdressers in the UK, this equates to an additional cost of £6,100 at a time of a profit squeeze across the sector.

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