Meeting with salon owners, Registered Training Organisation (RTO), company, and independent educators across the industry over the last few months has highlighted how segmented and disconnected the training and education space can be at times. There is no clearer example of this than in the education journey of the apprentice.

Quite rightly the responsibility for the apprentice’s education is shared around. Salon mentors take on the heavy lifting, educating, nurturing and growing their apprentices through the ups and downs of employment and the apprenticeship. The formal training for the apprentice to become qualified is delivered by a TAFE or private RTO. Companies also play a huge role in educating young stylist. From colour to equipment, hair extensions and retail, the education offering from companies that support the salons is world class. Rounding out the education support that is available to apprentices are the independent educators and business coaches that provide skillsbased education and training across the industry.

While access to a wide range of quality training is never a bad thing it can appear at times that the apprentice, with all good intention can be pulled in a number of directions at the same time. This can lead to confusion and not always the outcomes you would expect from such a substantial investment in time and resources.

Iconic salon education models link Sassoon’s and Toni & Guy point the way, and in our experience as an RTO we also see those salons that have greatest success in apprentice education. This best practice confirms what is required to navigate the landscape and to bring all parties together to create an incredible education experience. There are two key ingredients that the best in apprenticeship education systems have in common. It is a salon led training structure combined with a plan that coordinates all parties. Firstly, it requires the salon to have a structured set up for training. Namely:

• Dedicated in-salon training time

• A dedicated person in the salon who takes on the role of in-salon educator or mentor.

• A plan for communication in order to manage and review progress The second key ingredient is the need for leadership by the salon in coordinating all parties and dictating the flow of the apprenticeship. This is the piece around which quality training is built. Without this type of structure in place what can result is:

• Apprentices that lack clear direction in the salon and feel they are just support staff.

• Apprentices that attend their RTO and work through there college work which may or may not line up with what they are working on in the salon. An example of this common disconnect is when a student might be working on their cutting structures at the RTO but do not practice or build skills in the salon resulting in a long and protracted cutting journey.

• Apprentices that attend external company education that they may not be ready for or who attend education that repeats or is different to what they are learning in the salon or at their RTO.

For a salon, setting up dedicated training time and an in-salon mentor is one thing but putting a plan in place to coordinate all aspects of the training can be a more daunting prospect. What it boils down to is the salon creating a training plan for the apprentice journey. And by training plan I do not mean the RTO’s training plan that lists all of the units of competency from the qualification, but a skills-based plan set up by the salon.

To be effective and understood by all the plan needs to include:

• A list of the practical skills that you want the apprentice to achieve and a timeline for when you want to achieve them. For an apprentice first starting out this could be: o Massage techniques o Shampoo and Treatment services o Basic Blowdry’s •

A plan for the practice of these skills, i.e. How many times and on what type of clients?

• In-salon assessment of these skills. The best in-salon education models have a structured way of assessing if the apprentice has the skills listed to then either work with clients or move on to the next block of skill development.

• Aligning the formal units delivered by the RTO with the skills the apprentice is learning, practicing and being assessed on in the salon. While the apprentice can work through the RTO learning and even some of the knowledge assessment as they are developing the skills in the salon ideally the salon should ensure that any RTO practical assessment does not happen until apprentice has been through in- salon training, practice and assessment. This ensures that the in-salon mentor is confident that the apprentice is ready to be assessed by the RTO.

• The final piece of the plan is to plug-in any company education and external education to support the apprentice’s practical skills plan. The best example is colour. Ideally when colour skills and consultation are introduced to the apprentice by the salon then the time is right to access quality company education to support that journey.

Taking care to ensure that all the training is aligned if it is coming from salon, company and RTO all at the same time.

A commitment to education is a wonderful thing and the level of education and support by all educators in our industry is world class. But without a salon led, coordinated approach to education the risk is that the apprentice’s education is disconnected and at times can be daunting or even worse, confusing for all involved. The right structures backed up with a plan to deliver creates confident and skilled professional ready to tackle their hairdressing careers head on.