Tackling the Skills Shortage | Where are we Now?

September 08, 2023

Last year, the NHBF published its landmark Careers at the Cutting Edge: Tackling the Skills Shortage in the Hair & Beauty Sector report, an independent report written by Pragmatix Advisory Ltd.

Based on a survey of 570 businesses, the report outlined a skills crisis in the hair & beauty sector based on a series of interlinked factors across qualifications and training, recruitment and retention and financial pressures. The report was covered extensively by the hair & beauty trade press.

One year on from report, the NHBF is calling on the hair, beauty and barbering industries to further unite to continue the progress that has been made after the initial report was published.

The NHBF is pleased to announce that progress has been made in the following areas:  


Better marketing of careers: The NHBF is working with the Department for Education (DfE) to support better careers advice for the sector. We are also developing a range of careers information via the Beauty Industry Group (BIG) website.

Ongoing training and reskilling: Launch of the NHBF Skills Zone in partnership with Pivot Point, to enable our members to access flexible resources that give them the tools to develop their knowledge of the NHBF Code of Conduct (this outlines the minimum requirements for a business to be safe, legal and profitable).

Improve college courses: The NHBF continues to support the Education and Training Foundation (ETF), which has been commissioned by DfE to deliver a rich mix of live, online and face-to-face workshops, e-learning resources, mentoring, networking and industry collaboration to support the implementation of the hairdressing, barbering and beauty therapy T-Level. This provides practical help to everyone involved in the planning and delivery of T Levels.


Professionalised qualifications: We have agreed and promoted industrywide joint guidelines on education and skills through the Beauty Industry Group (BIG) Education & Skills Task & Finish Group.

Submissions to the Government and Parliament: We have called on the DfE to facilitate collaboration between central and local governments to bring together young people and employers at a local level in order to promote the range of sector careers. We have done this directly to DfE and through our submission to the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Beauty, Aesthetics and Wellbeing inquiry into the value of complementary therapies. The NHBF has also supported the development of the wellbeing and holistic therapist apprenticeship standard at level 3 and is looking at the development of level 4 and 5 standards.

Championing job ready qualifications: Through a blog published on our website and speaking at numerous sector events, exhibitions.


Increase funding provision: The NHBF supported the Hair Professional Apprenticeship Steering group to secure a significant uplift to the apprenticeship funding band – from £7,000 to £11,000 for the Hairdressing Professional standard, and an increase of £2,000 for the Barbering Professional standard. This means that education providers are able to deliver up-to-date, fully-funded apprenticeships, providing a boost to sector recruitment, skills and training.

Business rates discount: The NHBF helped to secure the 75% discount for the retail sector, transitional relief and a freeze in the multiplier in England and Wales with support through the Small Business Bonus in Scotland.

Energy bills support: Businesses have also had support through the Energy Bill Relief Scheme and its successor the Energy Bill Discount Scheme from April 2023. The NHBF is lobbying for further support from the Government and Ofgem targeted at businesses locked into high contracts, through ‘blend and extend’ options.

Evidence to the Government and Parliament: The NHBF has submitted comprehensive evidence to the Low Pay Commission about wage rates, making the case for restraint in future rises to the National Minimum Wage/National Living Wage, submissions to the UK Parliament about labour shortages, and to the Migration Advisory Committee about skills shortages – calling for it to be easier to bring in experienced staff from overseas.

Crackdown on tax avoiding businesses: Working in collaboration with HMRC on a communications and enforcement campaign around tax evasion and disguised employment for Q1 2024.

Address the VAT disparity: The NHBF called for fairer taxation and VAT in the Spring Budget submission to the Chancellor and in multiple other submissions to the Government and Parliament. They are working further on an evidence base to address this disincentive to growth.

We have made good progress, but some of the project workstreams – such as sector recruitment and retention – will take more time.  We will continue to implement the Sector Skills Action Plan and the cross-sector group when we meet again in October 2023 to discuss and evaluate what we have achieved. We will maintain working alongside industry partners with the support of the Government for the collaboration, to address all of the issues highlighted by the report.” Richard Lambert, NHBF chief executive

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