The Beauty of apprenticeships

With various accolades for his own salon’s acclaimed trainee scheme, Stuart Holmes reveals why he believes apprentices are the lifeblood of the hair and beauty industry

Like many in this profession, I started my career as an apprentice.

So when I set up my own salon I was keen to offer my staff the same support and development that I’d received when taking my first steps. “In this troubling economic time, apprenticeships make sound business sense as well as bringing youthful enthusiasm to the salon that can often be infectious and inspiring. Better still, according to the National Apprenticeship Scheme (NAS), apprentices incur lower training and recruitment costs and are more likely to stay longer.

“I believe that apprenticeships are the lifeblood of this industry and without them we’d lose a vital commodity that’s essential for the growth, development and rejuvenation of our profession.

“Our salon’s training programme philosophy is that one size doesn’t fit all. We aim to treat everyone as an individual by nurturing their strengths and helping them overcome their weaknesses.

“It’s a fact that apprentices save on recruitment costs. As an employer, one of the biggest problems that we face is recruiting and retaining staff. Apprentices are enthusiastic and willing to learn. They arrive with the right theoretical knowledge that is then paired with specific on-the-job training to create an employee that is quite literally tailor-made for your business.

“Some would argue that investing in apprentices is a false economy as the trainees absorb the skills and can then simply transfer them elsewhere should they decide to leave. However, I’d argue that apprenticeships inspire loyalty and our 75 per cent trainee retention rate proves this.

“Moreover, college training courses cover retail and marketing as part of the curriculum so I’ve received valuable input from my apprentices on things such as improving customer service or how to market a new product line. They also network with other students at college and so keep abreast of any innovations and trends within the industry.

“Growing your salon’s own talent through an apprenticeship scheme means that you have total control of their skills from the very beginning. Trainees aren’t likely to bring any bad habits or practices from elsewhere and you can nurture and develop the areas you see need encouragement or guidance. So don’t dismiss taking on your own apprentices – they could be just what your salon needs in this tough economic climate.”

Stuart Holmes has over 23 years’ experience in hairdressing and runs the multi-award winning Stuart Holmes Hair and Beauty Spa in Cheltenham with his wife Sara.


Personal plan Each apprentice has a tailor-made training plan that I set up with their input when they join us. This plan takes into account their college syllabus and supports it with in-salon training.

Communication I conduct regular one-to-one meetings with our apprentices where they’re encouraged to discuss all aspects of their training and development.

Training Review Every six to eight weeks I hold a training review with each apprentice to make sure they’re progressing well and to see if they need any extra support.

Team Every senior member of the salon is involved in the apprenticeship training programme so each trainee gets a broad knowledge base and a diverse skill set.

Shows I take all of our apprentices to various top trade shows which they find both inspirational and aspirational.

Shoots I also take them on fashion shoots so that they can get a different aspect on the world of hairdressing.

The London Experience Every year all staff from the salon, including apprentices, visit a London salon as a client to experience standards we hope they’ll try and replicate and bring back to The Cotswolds. It’s the best way of demonstrating my vision for our salon.