Ken Picton, who has owned a salon in Cardiff Bay for 30 years, says hairdressing holds the reputation of a ‘drop-out’ job, but to those in the industry know it is far from reality. Research has shown that the number of hairdressing apprentices in Wales has fallen by 40% since 2012-13.
“Hairdressing definitely had a point where lots of people were joining the industry – it was seen as an easy way to be a celebrity,” he said.
“Now that dynamic has changed a bit, I think people think that hairdressers have a certain type of stereotype behind them. People think it’s just a drop out job – it’s really not the case.”
The health and beauty sector contributes an estimated £6.6bn a year to the UK economy, of which up to £237m is in Wales, according to data published by The British Association of Beauty Therapy and Cosmetology. According to the report, some people think that teachers and careers advisors need to be better informed on the role.
Ken says education is at the heart of why people aren’t entering into the profession.
“I think a lot of it comes down to the education structure. If you’re doing well academically then you aren’t encouraged to go into something like hairdressing,” he said.
“People are marked by academia – it’s just wrong. Some people may be really academic and love hairdressing, or some people are practically intelligent or socially intelligent. ”
Foundation level hairdressing apprentices fell in Wales from 625 in 2012-13 to 375 in 2017-18, and Ken believes there are major misunderstandings about the profession.
“It’s not an easy job – it takes a lot of work. You can be an amazing hairdresser but it takes work,” he says.
“You know we have some people here that say ‘I never dreamed I’d be doing hairdressing’ but they just love it.”
Rachael Emanuel, a senior stylist at Yume salon, says that hairdressing is not valued as a career because it’s part of the beauty industry.
“I’ve had customers say to me ‘I wouldn’t want my daughter working as a hairdresser’ and I just think ‘Why not?’ It’s hard work,” she says.
“I think schools just want to get you through your A levels, but sometimes apprenticeships are so much better. Through their training, hairdressers get vocational on the job assessments. We do our NVQ in the salon where assessors come in monthly and assess us.”
Rachael says that hairdressing is a career for anybody, and thinks people should be encouraged to do it because they enjoy it – not because it is or isn’t equated with academic success.
“You could be really academic and still want to do hairdressing,” she says.
“Even if I won the lottery tomorrow I’d still do hairdressing because I love it.”
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