By Jean Wing Hing, Director of 4Leisure Recruitment.
This week, I have spent some time up in Manchester attending Professional Beauty North, one of the biggest beauty industry events in the UK. It was fantastic meeting so many new beauty industry professionals who specialise in a huge range of disciplines, and good to catch up with more familiar movers and shakers in the UK’s beauty industry.
I was also there to speak on a specialist panel on a topic entitled “How can colleges meet ever changing needs of the beauty industry? What should colleges focus on?”
With our collective knowledge and experience in helping newly qualified therapists into the world of work, I was able to contribute to a discussion with other beauty industry professionals including Monika Mohindra from LoveBeautybyMM, and Liz Holmes from Virgin Active, and answer questions from the audience.
The general consensus from the panel was that colleges should spend more time on preparing therapists for work. That could encompass a range of things such as interviewing, job hunting, and managing expectations.
In particular, my focus was on educating them on what the career routes look like for them and how to get there. There needs to be a concerted effort to provide a more comprehensive overview of what employers are looking for in each role and how therapists can best prepare themselves for the workplace.
I indicated that the biggest gripes employers currently had included poor timekeeping, lack of commercial focus and drive and poor customer service skills. It’s no good having a therapist who can give a fantastic massage or pedicure if they’re not showing up for appointments on time, or who don’t understand the difference a little customer service can make.
I was also keen to point out that the change in living wage is likely to have a huge impact on the sector for a number of different reasons. For example, employers are going to be increasingly demanding of commercial skills to ensure they can still drive profit, and the likelihood of smaller businesses failing due to overheads being unsustainable. They are going to expect more for their larger wage bill.
The panel encouraged colleges to drive wider, more generalist skill sets rather than highly specialised ones often driven by media trends, where there may be a lack of employment opportunities. In a skilled job such as beauty therapy, commercial focus and customer care are equally as important – the employer has a better quality worker, and the employee has a set of qualities that can be carried through their career no matter what specialism is currently in demand.
Our message to colleges is that teaching specialized technical skills is not enough for the current and future demands of the beauty industry. This is about having colleges focus on specific skills and also in equipping their students with relevant business skills that can be adapted no matter what the ever-changing beauty industry can throw at them. The latest massage technique may one day go out of fashion, but commercially focused therapists will always be in demand.
Want to know more about our college-to-work beauty therapy scheme Rising Stars?