In recent years salon education has shifted immensely, partly due to technology evolving but also pushed faster and harder by the effects of the pandemic.  What was once a face to face only occupation is now shifting into blended or hybrid learning, where there is a mix of face to face and online, as well as some courses being delivered fully online.

This means becoming an education provider is now more accessible but also requires a different set of skills as standing in front a class delivering knowledge is different from standing in front of a camera, being recorded, and then editing the digital content ready for upload to platforms such as Nabuno.  Technology in education is the way forward and you’ll need to not only complete your teaching qualification but master the world of software services that will support your academy.

Accreditation organisations have moved quickly to embrace this shift, and this has positives and negatives for those who are wishing to make a career pathway from their skills and experience.  For the industry it means that more professionals than ever are wanting to embrace education as an alternative revenue stream.  Whilst this should be applauded it is still an approach with caution situation as not every professional has enough experience, confidence to teach or the ability to pass on their knowledge.  It is a very different role from that of salon professional and it’s not as simple as showing someone how to carry out a particular technique.

Accreditation has become a method of easy access into the salon industry and understanding how it works before you begin your journey into education is vital.  Firstly, not all accreditation providers are created equal.  The better schemes require the education provider to be working to the national occupational standards, have a suitable back history of experience in the subjects they are teaching and to deliver any practical skill in an appropriate way (usually face to face). However, there are now also accreditation providers that allow all skills to be delivered remotely, online with no live tutor interaction and this route needs to be considered very carefully as often learners are left with a ‘qualification’ that is only insurable via the accreditor’s insurance supplier and with skills that leave them lacking confidence and career opportunities. 

These changes have led to education being a career pathway for many more than has been the case previously, and it’s led to a dilution of quality salon industry education.  If you want to be a quality-driven educator in your future, then here’s some information on how to start that journey and choose the right pathway to share your passion.

Don’t expect to run before you can walk.  Teaching is not for the faint-hearted or the inexperienced.  If you want to teach for a professional brand, they will usually be looking for at least 2 years, and sometimes up to 5 years, proven experience in your area of knowledge.  Without this length of experience, you may find yourself in the unpleasant situation of not being able to answer your students’ questions, and constantly having to look at notes or manuals when you are in front of the class won’t instil confidence from your learners.  If students are paying you for your educational services, they want to be able to trust that you know your subject thoroughly and will be able to answer any queries they may have before, during and after their course.

It is unusual in today’s world to be able to teach without a recognised education/teaching qualification such as the Ofqual regulated Level 3 AET or equivalent, such as PTTLS.   In more recent times there has been a rise in accredited versions of the AET but be aware that it is considered false advertising to call a qualification the AET unless it is an OfQual regulated and approved AET certificate.  These unregulated courses will likely be cheaper, and you will discover that many educational venues will not accept them as a suitable qualification for you to teach and so you may end up having to take a further regulated qualification.  Check your provider is a regulated provider and not accredited. If they aren’t a regulated provider ask for evidence that you will be able to teach outside of their umbrella both in your own academy and within a college or brand education role. 

You can progress in your educational qualifications to Level 4 and 5 in Education & Training culminating in a degree level qualification.  These courses may be more costly, but in some circumstances, you may be able to obtain funding or sponsorship depending on how and where you want to teach.  If you wish to work within the Further Education field this will be a requirement to have or be working towards.  It is an investment in your own education and your future so make sure you choose your course wisely, and speak to education providers you wish to work with to understand what they require and if they can offer support.

In regulated AET and higher courses (CET & DET) you will learn how to work with your learners and how to deal with different learning styles, develop the ability to assist those that have learning needs, and how to prepare and present your subject plus a lot of other skills to enable you to provide a well-rounded lesson.  Like all qualifications, the higher the level the more in-depth the study and the harder the course and assessments will be.

Before you embark on your journey to be an educator make sure your own education is up to date and that you have underpinning knowledge behind you.  Have you taken enough CPD over the last couple of years?  If not, then make sure you update your skills to today’s standards.  Are you aware of the National Occupational Standards (NOS)?  Again, if this is something you’re not aware of then make part of your continued learning to understand and update your knowledge with the new NOS for the hair and beauty sector, released in 2021. Make sure you understand every element of what you will be teaching.  There’s nothing worse than being on a course where the educator can’t answer a basic question without looking it up in a manual themselves?

If you haven’t already undertaken NVQ or equivalent qualification, then look at taking the regulated Level 2 and Level 3 courses in your subject area. In an ideal world, all industry educators should have formal qualifications to ensure they have the best level of standardised underpinning knowledge, however, a good and thorough history of brand or accredited education along with industry experience will, of course, be acceptable for many scenarios.  There are now several providers of ‘route to regulated’ education that can transfer your non-regulated education and experience and get you certified as regulated with only a limited amount of assessment of skill & knowledge

Whilst you can still take VRQs & NVQs there are also Technical qualifications available where you will sit end of course exams, so it will be tougher to pass.  This is going to prove an interesting time in our world as these new courses will perhaps shift things educationally in our sector.  Equally, this will all come down to how well the course is delivered and by whom.  A good educator teaching the NVQ route could produce better outcomes than an average or poorly experienced educator teaching the Technical qualification and again, this translates into accredited education which in some instances may be far more comprehensive than regulated but does not have the kudos of a regulated qualification.

Students should be checking their educator’s background and experience, whether brand educators or further education educators.  Are you current, do you know their subject, can you answer their questions?  If they are unsure or can’t find out this information, think about how to ensure they see a value to their investment and make sure you can answer all their research and due diligence questions appropriately.

It is important that you have the skills, qualifications, and experience to teach, as your potential students should, and will, be checking you out once you are educating.  Education isn’t just about being able to provide your specialist service well, it’s about being able to impart the biology, chemistry, structure, anatomy & physiology, and the full theory behind whatever you are wishing to teach.  The practical element is only part of their learning and many courses, particularly cheap online ones, fail to cover much of this important area of knowledge.  Your ability to pass on the vital underpinning knowledge to learners with comprehensive information and passion is the biggest skill of a good educator.

Once you’ve gained all the required skills and qualifications then the hard work begins.  If you haven’t signed up to work with a professional brand and wish to remain independent, you will need to work with an awarding body or an accreditation provider.  You need to decide if you will teach short courses or whether you wish to only teach regulated national qualifications eg NVQs.  Each pathway brings different levels of assessment and criteria for your education provision.  Accreditation is the simpler of the two routes and is currently a common source of education in the industry.  It gives easy access, sometimes far too easy, for students to get into the salon industry.  If you intend to provide accredited courses give your students plentiful guided learning hours as, without it, they may struggle to succeed long term.

Following the pandemic and lockdowns, online education has become more common and popular and whilst in some scenarios, it can be a great step forward in some ways it is also enabling some less morally sound educators to profit from cheap, not fit for purpose education.  Some educators have embraced the online world with virtual classrooms and for areas such as nail services, this can create an advantage for students who instead of peering over someone’s shoulder to see the tutor demo get a birds-eye view via video link and in fact also means that the tutor can view and assess the student’s work more effectively and efficiently than in a live class with 16 students to walk around.  We need to recognise the difference between virtual classes and online courses as the difference is vast.  An online course will in some cases an unsupervised, pre-recorded video with worksheets to complete and little or no assessment from a live tutor.  For this style of education any certificate provided may be little more than an attendance certificate which in the world of career pathways won’t support a professional in the event of an insurance claim.

Education is changing and as an industry, we watch with curiosity to see what the future holds as we merge old style learning with more virtual and online studies.  Educating our future professionals as a career should be seen as a privilege, and those of us that provide this need to ensure we treat our students fairly, with respect and to give them qualifications that are fit for purpose, worth their investment and will enable them to grow a successful career.

Education should not be easy – it should challenge and inspire; it should help you evolve into the professional you want to be and help you develop the next generation of professionals.

Empowering our future professionals is and should be, an honour for all those who work in creating the professionals of tomorrow.