How to become a Hairdresser

The London Hairdressing Apprenticeship Academy (LHAA) is a dynamic and innovative vocational training organisation that specialises in high quality hairdressing training. Is hairdressing right for me?

Hairdressing can be a hugely rewarding profession, both creatively and financially. In recent years the profession has been gaining popularity. This is because there is always a consistent demand and, therefore, steady employment opportunities. Creative jobs that offer an income are hard to come by, and as the fashion industry adapts and evolves more and more artistic people are beginning to realise that hairdressing can be a very satisfying creative outlet. 

Job satisfaction is a crucial element of having a long and fruitful career and according to City and Guilds hairdressers are among the happiest workers in the UK.  One of the primary reasons for this is that hairdressers get to meet people from all walks of life on a daily basis, ensuring the job constantly remains engaging, challenging and rewarding. 

With so many options available to you entering the business can seem daunting at first. In short, there are two routes into the industry; private courses and apprenticeships. Each have their pros and cons and what might work for one may not work for another. This article will help you decide which route to take and whether or not you’ll feel suitable for the job. 

Why choose an Apprenticeship?

People who have taken an Apprenticeship in the workplace generally have much more confidence with the skills they have learnt.  They are also better able to meet the expectations and needs of employers.  The main benefits are:   

Wages 

As an Apprentice you learn on the job and you are an employee.  As an employee, you are entitled to a wage, which means you EARN WHILST YOU LEARN plus, you won’t be racking up any student debts.  As an Apprentice you are entitled to the National Minimum Wage (NMW) for Apprentices which is currently £3.50 per hour (1st April 2017), if you are under 19 or 19 and in the first year of your Apprenticeship.  In the second year of an Apprenticeship those aged 19 or over are entitled to the National minimum wage rate.  If you choose to start a new apprenticeship framework you may remain on the NMW for apprentices. (Add link to NMWGov.UK)

Training and Support
The LHAA training in hairdressing will provide you with the hairdressing and ‘salon ready knowledge and skills that employers need for you to be able to do the job well. 

You’ll have a Tutor who will mentor and support you with your progression and achievement on the programme and will develop an individual learning plan to meet your needs.

Pastoral Care

The LHAA will ensure that your learning takes place within a safe environment. Employer Engagement Managers and Safeguarding Officers are based at each of our Academies and together with your Tutor are all here to support you throughout your time at the LHAA and to make sure you have access to and are aware of the support and opportunities that are available to you.

Our Employer Engagement Managers will support you with getting a job, CV writing, preparing for an interview as well as providing links to services that can assist you with a variety of issues such as financial advice, careers advice and safeguarding issues.

Career Progression 

Many Apprentices progress to junior stylist within the salons they trained with and go on to train for a higher level  Apprenticeship in hairdressing or develop their skills on a barbering Apprenticeship.  

Some of the career opportunities available are: salon stylist/, colour technician, salon manager, freelance hairdresser, TV and film work, trainer/assessor, teaching, or working on a cruise ship.

How do Hair Professional Apprenticeships work?

The Hair Professional Standards have been developed by employers within the hairdressing industry and define what an Apprentice should know and be able to do before they are ready to work in hairdressing.

Apprenticeships combine on-the-job (at the salon you are employed work at) and off-the-job training (at the LHAA Academy), you EARN WHILST YOU LEARN.  This means you’ll be working in a hairdressing salon where you will learn and practise your hairdressing skills to develop your competence in hairdressing.  You will also attend one of our state of the art Hairdressing Academies one day a week where you will learn the underpinning knowledge and practical skills to achieve the Diploma for Hair Professionals(Hairdressing),  English and maths in a hairdressing context as well as important skills such as customer service, teamwork and retail skills.  You will gain your practical skills working within our Academy salon working on clients and supported by our highly experience Educators and Art team      

To achieve a Hair Professional Apprenticeship, learners must successfully complete the following:

  • The Diploma for Hair Professionals (Hairdressing) which is a work based qualification that is designed to ensure the Apprentice is job ready
  • Functional Skills qualifications in English and maths
  • Apprentices on the Diploma for Hair Professionals will need to pass maths and English functional skills at level 1 but learners must also take the level 2 functional skills tests (even if they don’t pass them).

  • Apprentices on the Advanced Level 3 Apprenticeship will need to pass the level 2 functional skills tests

  • Learners who have achieved maths and English GCSE at grade A*-C are exempted from functional skills.

Is hairdressing the right choice for you?

Hairdressing is a fast moving, image conscious business, so you will need to be very presentable, creative, enjoy meeting people and have loads of energy.  

You don’t have to be the academic type and there are no set entry criteria for the Hairdressing Apprenticeship. We are looking for Apprentices that are enthusiastic and have the willingness and passion to be a hairdresser.  You will need to be motivated and hard working to succeed on the Apprenticeship programme.

You will also need to:

  • Be well presented in all aspects including: clothing, hair and personal hygiene
  • Be practical and well organised
  • Be a good communicator with excellent social skills
  • Have a good sense of humour and amicable nature whether dealing face to face with clients or speaking on the telephone
  • Be willing to work flexible hours/days as agreed in the Apprenticeship employment contract
  • Have a high degree of dexterity and coordination
  • Be committed to the programme as we demand high standards of attendance, time-keeping and dedication

All Apprentices will be interviewed prior to being offered a place at the London Hairdressing Apprenticeship Academy.

For further information about our Academies in Camden, Chiswick, Elstree, Croydon and Loughton please contact us on 020 8953 9344 or email [email protected]

Essential Skills

At the core hairdressers may cut, shape and colour hair, but creativity and a flair for style isn’t the only requirement. There are also many social and physical demands that are just as important.  

Manual Dexterity
The ability to use your hands and fingers well is paramount. All it takes is one minor slip to completely ruin a client’s haircut. At the same time you’ll be working against the clock. Performing well in under such intense conditions is a skill that can be learned and improved upon; however, that doesn’t make it any less stressful to begin with.  

Trustworthiness

The importance of trustworthiness in a social sense is far more apparent than you may expect.  People often trust their hairdressers as much as their closest  friends and confide in them when they want to discuss intimate details of their life. While it’s certainly not your job to take clients under your wing and offer  them psychiatric advice, remember that many will use your chair as a medium to vent. Being a good listener is crucial. 

Service/Social Skills

Hairdressing requires excellent customer service – perhaps on an even deeper level than most other service oriented jobs. This is because friendships with clients will inevitably develop over time. If you’re someone who actively invites people into your life and enjoys the company of others, hairdressing could  certainly be a hugely satisfying profession. 
 
Independence

Even when you’re working in a salon you will be left to your own devices. Depending on the business model you pursue this will have a direct impact on your earnings. For example, you will probably be expected to book follow-up appointments and organise your own schedule to a certain extent. 

Willingness to Learn
Just like any other sector within fashion the hairdressing industry is constantly adapting. Keeping up with the latest trends is one thing, but practical application is something else altogether. You’ll never stop learning, even after you gain the required formal qualifications. 

Objectiveness
Like an actor envisions the thoughts and opinions of the characters they’re portraying, at times you must be able to put yourself in your clients’ shoes and not allow your own opinions to get in the way of their personal preference. While it’s okay to advise a customer and point them in a certain direction with regards to their haircut, you must always remain impartial, even if you don’t like what they choose. 

With a little perseverance and open mindedness these essential skills can be learned over time. While most will be covered during training, it’s up to you to assess your strengths and weaknesses and determine where you can make improvements.

Our Apprenticeship Programmes

The Diploma for Hair Professionals (Hairdressing) programme is a mandatory part of the Apprenticeship standards for Hair Professionals and requires the following 6 units to be completed plus Apprentices must pass the final end-point assessment:

Mandatory Units

  • Consultation
  • Shampoo, condition and treat the hair and scalp
  • Colour and lighten hair using a range of techniques 
  • Style and finish hair using a range of techniques to create a variety of looks
  • Cut hair using a range of techniques to create a variety of looks

Option Unit

Hair Extension Services

Apprentices will also learn and develop the following skills, knowledge and behaviours which are embedded within the hairdressing units:

  • Professionalism and Values

  • Behaviours and communication

  • Safe working practices

The End-Point Assessment

The final unit includes a synoptic practical assessment carried out by an independent examiner where the apprentice will demonstrate he/she can complete a range of services on a number of models to industry standards and within commercial timings. The end point assessment will be graded a Pass or Distinction.

Advanced Apprenticeship in Hairdressing

The Level 3 NVQ Diploma in Hairdressing (Framework):

  • Provide client consultation services
  • Creatively cut hair using a combination of techniques
  • Creatively colour and lighten hair 
  • Hair colour correction services
  • Creatively style and dress hair  
  • Develop and enhance your creative hairdressing skills 
  • Provide creative hair extension services [Balmain certified]

Training and Development

While an eye for detail, good people skills and a knack for style is a necessity, academic qualifications are crucial. In the UK certain standards must be met before you are deemed fit for service and capable to deliver in a professional work environment.

Qualifications

There are several industry recognised qualifications for hairdressing and barbering which can be taken full-time, part-time or in a “learn on the job” format. Accreditations include certificates, diplomas and even degrees.  

National Vocational Qualifications

A National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) is the standard accreditation in the UK and must be gained at level 2 or 3 in order to be recognised as a competent hairdresser. NVQ tests are both theoretical – in a coursework or exam setting – and practical; therefore, you must be able to demonstrate practical skills under a controlled setting. Level 3 NVQ qualifications cover specific hairdressing techniques in a more concise manner, such as styling, colouring, cutting and other essential creative skills.    

BTEC Diplomas

Edexcel are one of the most highly respected examination awarding bodies in the UK and offer a wide array of BTEC Diplomas in hairdressing, barbering and related fields, and like NVQs, each qualification has various levels. BTEC diplomas are generally more theory based and require coursework and written examinations. In addition they are recognised by the UCAS tariff and, therefore, can be used as an alternative to A-levels to gain entry into universities.

Degree Programs

While foundation degree and degree courses are generally not essential, they can be highly beneficial if you plan on running your own salon. Undergraduate programs in hairdressing and salon management can be undertaken at university level and often cover specific sub-topics in greater detail. For example, your place of study may run modules in hairdressing for film and television. Other related topics such as business and entrepreneurship can also be highly beneficial; however, practical skills must be gained on the side in order to partake in hairdressing. 

Combined Courses

Qualifications can often be split into more than one category to give you a broader understanding of hairdressing. For example, educational establishments may provide hairdressing courses that cover other parts of the beauty industry such as make-up and nails. This can lead to even more employment opportunities after completion. 

Apprenticeships

Apprenticeship programs allow you to work and gain formal level 2 and 3 qualifications at the same time. In order to partake in an apprenticeship you must find out what schemes are available in your local area by checking the Apprenticeships page of GOV.UK.

Fundamentally the best route for you depends on your own circumstances and preferred method of learning. What’s available in your area and your personal finances is also a huge factor that must be taken into account.

Wages

Apprenticeship Wages 

As an Apprentice, you learn on the job and you are an employee.  As an employee, you are entitled to a wage, which means you EARN WHILST YOU LEARN, plus, you won’t be racking up any student debts.  Apprentices are entitled to the apprentice rate which is currently £3.50 per hour (1st April 2017), if they’re either:

  • aged under 19

  • aged 19 or over and in the first year of their apprenticeship

Example: An apprentice aged 22 in the first year of their apprenticeship is entitled to a minimum hourly rate of £3.50

Example: An apprentice aged 22 who has completed the first year of their apprenticeship is entitled to a minimum hourly rate of £7.05

If you choose to start a new apprenticeship framework you may remain on the NMW for apprentices. 

National Minimum Wage

The National Minimum Wage (NMW) is the minimum pay per hour most workers are entitled to by law. The rate will depend on a worker's age and if they are an apprentice.

The National Living Wage

The Government's National Living Wage was introduced on 1 April 2016 for all working people aged 25 and over, and from April 2017 it is £7.50. The current National Minimum Wage for those under the age of 25 still applies.

The rates from 1 April 2017 are:

  • £7.50 per hour - 25 yrs old and over

  • £7.05 per hour - 21-24 yrs old

  • £5.60 per hour - 18-20 yrs old

  • £4.05 per hour - 16-17 yrs old

  • £3.50 for apprentices under 19 or 19 or over who are in the first year of apprenticeship.

The rate will then change every April. 

Exemptions

There are a number of people who are not entitled to the NMW/NLW.

  • Self-employed people.

  • Volunteers or voluntary workers.

  • Company directors.

  • Family members, or people who live in the family home of the employer who undertake household tasks.

All other workers including pieceworkers, home workers, agency workers, commission workers, part-time workers and casual workers must receive at least the NMW.

Advanced Learner Loan for Adult Courses

The Advanced Learner Loan is a government-funded loan to help learners. It's easy to apply for, doesn’t take your household income into account and doesn’t involve a credit check.

You may qualify for the Advanced Learner Loan to help pay for your LHAA level 3 course tuition fees.

This scheme has been introduced by the government to help learners over the age of 19 study for qualifications at Level 3 and above that will improve their employability and develop high-level skills and knowledge.
The availability of loans at Level 3 does not replace an individual aged 19 to 23’s legal entitlement to full funding for a first full Level 3.

Here are some key facts about the loan:
  • Repayments are linked to what you earn and not how much you borrowed.
  • You only have to start making repayments when you’ve finished your course and you’re earning over £21,000 a year (which is £404 a week or £1,750 a month). Until then you don’t need to pay back anything, but you can make voluntary repayments at any time.
  • You pay 9% of the money you earn over £21,000, before tax. For example, if you earn £22,000 a year, your monthly repayment will be £7 a month; and if you earn £35,000 a year, it will be £105 per month.
  • Interest is charged on a sliding scale between the Retail Price Index (RPI) and RPI +3%, depending on how much you earn.

Am I eligible?
To be eligible for an Advanced Learner Loan you must:
  • Be aged 19 and over at the start of your course
  • Be studying an eligible course to Level 3, 4, 5 or 6 (including QCF Certificates and Diplomas, Access to Higher Education, A Levels (maximum of four), Advanced and Higher apprenticeships
  • Be a resident in the UK (meeting Student Finance England nationality or residency status)
 
When can I apply?
You can apply for a learning loan once you have received your ‘Learning and Funding Information Letter’ from the LHAA which gives you the course information you will need to apply for a learning loan.
You will also be required to provide personal information.
Further information is on the gov.uk website or you can contact Student Finance England online or by telephone on 0300 100 0607.

How do I apply?
The easiest way is to apply online or you can download an application form to complete and send to Student Finance England, however, this can take longer.

Before applying for a loan you may wish to seek advice from the following sources:
  • The Money Advice Service
  • National Careers Service
  • FE Choices

How much can I borrow?
The Skills Funding Agency determines the maximum loan amount for each qualification it funds.
In some cases there may be a shortfall which you will have to pay if the cost of the course exceeds the maximum loan amount.
This information will be in your 'Learning and Funding Information Letter' which will be provided by the LHAA

How many loans can I take out?
You can apply for up to 4 loans and get more than one loan at the same time.
You can apply for another loan to take the same level of course e.g. a level 3 in Hairdressing and a Level 3 in Make-up artistry.
Please note: You cannot take out a loan to repeat a similar course at the same level.

 
How do I repay the Advanced Learner Loan?
You won’t have to pay anything back until you are earning over £21,000 a year, and the loan will be written off after 30 years. Interest on the loan will be at the rate set by the Student Loans Company which will be lower than anything available from the high street.

Further information is available at studentloanrepayment.co.uk.

How much will my repayments be?
9% of your income over the £21,000 threshold. For example, if your income is £25,000 a year then your loan repayments would be around £360 a year (or £30 a month).

Income each year before tax

Monthly salary

Monthly repayment

Up to £21,000

£1,750

£0

£22,000

£1,833

£7

£25,000

£2,083

£30

£30,000

£2,500

£67

£35,000

£2,917

£105

£40,000

£3,333

£142

More information on the Advanced Learner Loan is available from the Government website.

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