I hear it rumbling through our industry: Where have all the good people gone? Remember when they used to line up for a shot at a hairdressing apprenticeship? Why can’t I get quality staff? I need more applicants to choose from! Maybe the solution is simpler than you think. Maybe you’re just looking in the wrong age group.
Sure, things have changed. When I applied for my hairdressing apprenticeship I was up against eight others. These days, the road to recruitment often serves up little more than tumbleweeds. The numbers don’t lie. Trade participation is at an all-time low, with 2016 trade enrolments down by 10.8% compared to 2015. The decline’s been steady since 2012 and it’s not just hair and beauty. Some 60% of trades are experiencing skill shortages and the completion rate for both trainees and apprentices remains just under 60%.
So, how do you remain positive and keep up your search for top-calibre people for your team? Where can you look to fill these roles? I suggest you open your eyes to all applicants and stop ruling out minorities, particularly mature age candidates.
When I reflect on my 8 years of salon ownership, I know my most successful trainee was a mature age apprentice. She was a stand-out on all levels. Here are five things I learnt from training and working alongside her:
1. LIFE EXPERIENCE IS UNBEATABLE
There’s nothing better than a new team member who hits the ground running and adds exceptional value to your team from day one. Mature age apprentices come toting a ready-stocked toolbox of workplace experience and life experience. No having to “parent” them on the importance of arriving punctually, managing their time, ironing their work clothes or being courteous on the phone. They’re more likely to chat confidently with your clients (see #3 below) and know how to handle money and EFTPOS. Chances are they can even make a great cuppa! You save time on coaching the basics, and can get on with training the important stuff like techniques and team culture.
2. THE PRICE IS RIGHT
How so, when mature age apprentices attract higher wages than younger team members? Because the wage is more sustainable. The mature age apprentice is more likely to survive on what you pay them rather than have to supplement their income with a second job. So they stay focused on the apprenticeship, on doing well, on helping you achieve your salon goals. And because you’re paying more, you’ll be more accountable about getting the best value from your apprentice, providing them with more growth opportunities to ensure you recoup the cost of their wages. You’ll elevate them quickly beyond a glorified cleaner role to hands-on, client-facing and revenue generating. That’s a win-win for everyone.
“Mature age apprentices come toting a ready-stocked toolbox of workplace experience & life experience.”
3. READY TO BOOST YOUR CLIENT EXPERIENCE
A mature apprentice comes equipped with confidence gained through life experience – natural relatability that transcends across to your clients of all ages. It can take months (even years) to teach a younger trainee how to
relate naturally on a professional level. This ability to adapt and engage with your clients boosts the salon experience you provide. You’ll soon see that ability to build and nurture your client relationships reflected in added value and increased rebookings.
4. GRATEFUL FOR THE CHANCE TO SHINE
The mature age apprentices I’ve come across truly appreciate the opportunity to grow in a career they’re passionate about. They’re not here because the school careers counsellor told them hairdressing was a good fit. They’re here because they want to be; they’ve made a conscious, grown-up decision to make a living doing what they love. And they’ve already overcome a huge hurdle – the perception by some in our industry that youth is everything.
Once given the opportunity to shine, they almost always excel. When I think back to my mature age apprentice, I remember her energy, how she never stopped still in the salon, how she always looked for what came next. Her
personal drive and initiative meant she was fully booked and blitzing industry standard targets at the end of her training, even outperforming senior team members.
5. YOU HAVE ACCESS TO ALL THE SUPPORT YOU NEED
When I took on my first mature age apprentice, I was only 23 years old. No one had taught me leadership skills and team management. Looking back, I could have done with some expert help! Fast-forward a few years to when I took on my second mature age apprentice. This time, I took advantage of a local government mentor available for apprentices. That support helped me navigate the tricky and complex issues, and take leaps and bounds in the right direction. Around the same time, I started working with a salon coach who supported me to step-up as a leader. You have many options around you to access the support you need to get the best outcomes for you, your salon and your apprentice. You just need to step-up, seek out the right people and ask for help.
Now, you know. When searching for the next amazing individual to join your squad of awesome stylists, don’t narrow down your options by closing the door on mature age applicants. Your limited belief around their price and value is misplaced – they represent incredible potential talent and value. No matter what age your apprentice is, your job is
to support them to grow and show them how to shine so your clients get to experience amazing things in your salon, and you get to experience the business success you deserve.