Business Education

Are College Courses Still Fit for Purpose?

June 06, 2023

Celebrity hairdresser Andrew Barton explores the ongoing issue of hairdressing training at colleges: are college courses still fit for purpose? What is being done to make them better in the future?

We are all aware of the current challenges surrounding the recruitment of young people, but at a time where our industry is evolving drastically, what better chance than now for training opportunities to improve. The college versus in-salon training question never ceases to be a hot topic in hairdressing.


There is much to consider regarding what is offered by hairdressing college departments –there are some outstanding people involved in this form of further education and, quite frankly, it tires me to hear lecturers constantly berated for what they deliver.

However, we all know the horror stories of hiring stylists straight from college, only to learn they don’t have the standard of skills required to work in a salon. This often results in many graduates being unable to find jobs. Understandably, they don’t want to stay on an apprenticeship wage, so many will attempt to set up on their own instead. This is frustrating for all of us; it means a significant number of poorly qualified ‘hairdressers’ are looking after the nation’s hair, which doesn’t help with the perception of the industry.

“As salon managers and owners, we need to be actively involved in making the future of hair training the standard that we want.”


As with all training, the standard and results entirely depend on the people delivering the learning. There are some great colleges out there. Barnsley College, where I undertook my day-release training is an example of an excellent college with the ability to produce salon-floor-ready hairdressers. But what is it that sets these high-standard colleges apart from the others?

The colleges that engage heavily with local salon businesses understand exactly how to teach the NVQ qualifications to ensure their students have the skills to make them employable, capable stylists. What’s more, the Department for Education has actually commissioned OFSTED to measure the contribution that colleges make towards improving local, regional and national needs.

However, there’s no point us standing on the sidelines moaning about the current standard of college training. As salon managers and owners, we need to be actively involved in making the future of hair training the standard that we want. That means working with our local colleges to help tutors plan and deliver the exact training that we want our stylists to have.

This disparity between college education and salon needs is what inspired me to launch Andrew Barton London Education. ABLE is about the ‘finishing skills’ that are essential for stylists, but not always taught as part of the NVQ curriculum. This includes topics like running a column, leading consultations and salon conduct, as well as the finer cut and colouring techniques that mark the difference between creating a look that is just passable and creating something that keeps clients coming back for more.

ABLE is a fantastic tool that demonstrates how relevant stakeholder involvement in the design and implementation of the hairdressing curriculum can ensure that staff are fully up to date with the latest trends within the industry.

I hope this feature has raised an eyebrow or two, or perhaps even spurred you to unite with your local college hairdressing team. After all, we are all in the same boat of wanting to improve standards for the future generation of our industry.


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