Why Are Fewer and Fewer Young People Joining the Industry Today?

March 27, 2023

In his exclusive column for Pro Hair, Andrew Barton shines a light on some of the difficult topics affecting hairdressing professionals across the country. In this month’s instalment, he explored the ongoing skills crisis: Why Are Fewer and Fewer Young People Joining the Industry Today?

Throughout Andrew’s career, training and developing the success of others has always been a top priority – leading him to create the ABLE scholarship programme that offers training services and further education to hairdressing colleges – however, the national interest in courses like this is rapidly decreasing. Andrew investigates the worrying decline in new apprentices…

Like many, my career started as an apprentice in my small village hometown. Despite its size, I was taught exacting standards of hairdressing and customer service, and was inspired from an early age to be the best that I could be. Without a doubt, it was my apprenticeship that propelled my career and sparked my ambition to achieve success. Since then, with the various teams of people I’ve worked with, I have nurtured generations of hairdressing apprentices to reach their full potential; working side by side with students to teach, care and share knowledge.

However, right now there is a reported skills crisis, with fewer people coming into the industry every year. On top of this, from older generations, there is a constant noise of “it wasn’t like that when I was an apprentice.” I want to encourage others to think of how we can make hairdressing apprenticeships more attractive; how can we – as managers, teachers and leaders – be more aware of a generation’s needs. I remember how excited and engaged I was to be first learning and creating hair; I want the apprentices around me to feel the same. We need to interest and motivate them, not simply dish out menial tasks and glue them to the sweeping brush or washing machine.


An apprenticeship is a paid job where the employee learns and gains valuable experience. Alongside on-the-job training, apprentices spend at least 20%of their working hours completing classroom-based learning with a college or training provider. This leads to a nationally recognised qualification.

Apprentices are paid £4.81 per hour, however someone over the age of 19 in the second year of their apprenticeship must be paid the National Minimum Wage or National Living Wage.


The opportunity to develop a workforce with skills associated to the salon’s brand values and reputation, instilling the company’s culture from the start.

With an integrated plan for each apprentice, there is the opportunity for high achievers to emerge within the salon business in a relatively short period of time.

This also brings the opportunity for team members to further develop their own careers and skills through passing on knowledge. Whilst one specific member of the team should be responsible for apprentice training and development, each and every team member also has a role to play in bettering the apprentice – whether that be a specialist skill such as hair-up or hair extensions, or to be a shadow for the apprentice to understand how someone builds a successful column or cares for clients at the backwash.

Apprenticeships also provide an environment to connect with the community. Community is a valued commodity at the heart of many salons, with successful businesses having used apprentices to gain great PR across the country for decades. Hopefully, the students that you train will grow up to become professional, successful hairdressers and tell all of their clients about you.

Clients are also impressed with the gesture of salon owners employing and nurturing apprentices.

The key to recruiting more apprentices is to focus on the fundamental benefits of a career in hairdressing; this ensures that students have something to aspire to later down the line.

Training to become a hairdresser is an opportunity to build a professional, rewarding and lucrative career with an array of benefits, including:

  • Salon ownership or franchising.
  • High earning potential.
  • Travel opportunities.
  • Opportunities to teach, train and mentor others.
  • Creative pathways, including stage work, fashion show styling and styling for photo shoots.
  • Participation in local and national hairdressing competitions.
  • The fun and camaraderie involved in being part of a team.
  • An opportunity to keep up-to-date with fashion and beauty trends.
  • Continual professional development through training.
  • Higher level qualifications.
  • The chance to gain an admired reputation as a great stylist in the area.
  • The privilege to become a State Registered Hairdresser and use SRH in your title.

Of course, it’s easy to focus on the negatives, and we can all share stories of when apprenticeships have gone wrong, but an apprentice is an investment in time; it may not always work out, but with a little planning and consideration, an apprentice should be an asset. It’s where most of the stars of today’s industry first began, and its part of the reason why hairdressing is considered to be one of the happiest professions out there.

Change only happens when we are prepared to adjust our attitudes and actions. So, what are you going to do about this skills crisis?

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