Ken’s Clinic

Ken’s diagnosis:

I’m afraid I’m going to be controversial in my answer as I am not a fan of the NVQ process when it comes to creating qualified stylists. I realise it’s a process to gain a ‘qualification’, but I’m unaware of any salon owner who believes that a trainee is salon-ready just because they have passed their NVQ. With that in mind, I would leave the NVQ qualification to an outside body and focus on training, in the salon, the practical skills required by a stylist.

Now, more controversy! If I was training to be an accountant I don’t think I would learn accountancy on a Monday and then spend the rest of the week sweeping floors, cleaning and making cups of tea. What is that teaching me? Forward-thinking salons need to consider how to get a trainee onto their salon floors in (preferably) under a year.

To do that would require a totally different approach. Training would then have two clearly defined areas. NVQ training and practical skills training. As I said previously, I would leave the NVQ to a trusted outside partner and invest more of my time and resources into the practical training. In my perfect world a trainee would spend one day a week on their NVQ, two or even three days on practical training and the rest of the week shadowing and learning salon craft.

I would employ support workers to do other salon duties but they would not be on a training programme. They would be people of any age who want a job, not a career.
I can hear many salon owners saying: “but this is impossible”, “I can’t afford it and I don’t have the time to provide the practical training”. Depending on your size I accept this may be true. But this is where we need to start thinking outside the box.

Take three salons that are within travelling distance of one another and who are all of the appropriate standard. They form a training ‘co-operative’ and each provide a trainer for one day a week. All three salons allow their trainees to receive three days of practical training each week and one day of NVQ education a week. Currently, over a three-year apprenticeship a trainee might, if they are lucky, receive 144 days of practical skills training (excluding NVQ). If they did that training at the rate of three days a week, they could be trained in 48 weeks, not three years.

There is no right or wrong, and this is purely my opinion. However, I believe now is the time for something radically different. And whomever offers fast-track training could have potential trainees queueing outside their door.

Ken West is director of business experts 3•6•5 – email him on


Ken West