Ever wondered what drives our trainees? What they do in their day? If you’re considering an apprenticeship, we’re here to share the details on what a hairdressing career looks like.
Why choose a hairdressing apprenticeship?
Christie, one of our trainees from Stafford Street, tells us “An apprenticeship is a great opportunity for someone who learns better hands on, rather than academically”. She thinks they should be advertised more in schools, so people know more about them. Many of her colleagues echoed this, so we listened; over the past few months we’ve attended more career fairs than ever before, and given talks on the realities of daily life as a trainee in schools in Edinburgh and the Lothians. So far, we’ve attended Dalkeith, Portobello and Forresters, with visits to Gracemount, Wester Hailes and St Augustine’s imminent.
Sophy, apprentice from Stockbridge, adds “I knew I wanted to have a career in hairdressing from a young age. I felt like an apprenticeship was a better option for me than going to college. You get to learn the salon basics before you become a hairdresser. You don’t just get thrown in at the deep end.”
But Millie, who’s qualified as a stylist in October 2023, warns that this isn’t just an easy alternative to leaving school. “Definitely make sure that it’s the thing you want to do. Sometimes people just go into it thinking “Oh, that’s what I’ll do, that’s an easy option”. But make sure that it’s definitely suited to you. Something that you’re genuinely interested in and something that you enjoy as well.”
What might their journey look like?
Our apprentices are the building blocks of our company. They’re essential to keep our business thriving. We’re almost continuously seeking out new trainees. As the others flourish and grow, we must have new generations of trainees coming through the ranks ready to learn and impress.
Trainees join us on an initial three-year contract.
In these three years they begin to cover the basics of hairdressing, which begins with a straight blow-dry. They then progress through to more complicated cuts and colours. By their third year, trainees have advanced to more challenging cuts such as crops and sharp bobs, colour changes, and have had a taste of Avant Garde styling.
Their three-year contract is sown with competitions, seminars, workshops and their SVQ, which they must pass to advance through their career. They’re taught how to consult with their clients, problem solve, and how to be a hairdresser in every sense.
And it’s not just hairdressing skills and experience that these trainees gain. Millie, who has gone from strength to strength, feels her confidence in social situations just got better and better, “In the beginning, I never felt like I could really just start chatting to anyone,” she said. “But now, because this is such a social job, I was able to go out somewhere and feel a bit more relaxed. And I feel like I’m better at small talk!”
What happens when they’re almost ready to qualify?
As the years pass, training becomes more intense. Their trainers look for perfection, whilst their model timings become shorter, and their columns become fuller.
A few years ago, those starting in their third year began a ‘tour’, spending a few months in each of the other salons. This gives them an opportunity to bond with all of the teams, work in a new environment and further benefit from the vast amount of expertise in the extended Charlie Miller family.
Although moving salon is a nerve-wracking thought for many, our hairdressers look back on these memories as defining moments in their career. “It vastly expands your knowledge” says Ruth, who is now a Senior Salon Stylist in South St Andrew Street. “As a third year you have a lot more freedom to grow.”
Molly, also a Senior Salon Stylist in South St Andrew Street agrees, and adds that aside from the invaluable hairdressing knowledge, some of her strongest friendships were formed on tour.
What happens once they qualify?
As they near the end of their contract, their trade test is on the horizon. This usually spans three days, and their model column allows them to showcase their skills on almost every type of cut and colour.
These days are intense, there’s no room for error and the trainees know this. To be a Charlie Miller hairdresser, you must execute these cuts and colours to the highest standard.
It’s tough but fair; to provide the highest level of customer care as a hairdresser you must know your trade, and in turn the trainees must feel confident in their own abilities.
With such a wealth of knowledge and fantastic trainers, these youngsters have the support of the entire team, and qualifying is always an emotional occasion. The end of an era, and the hard work doesn’t stop there. In turn, the newly qualified hairdressers are taught how to educate the new trainees, and it’s been this way for generations. Most of the Charlie Miller team, with only a few exceptions, started their hairdressing life here as a 15 or 16 year old.
Hairdressers are continually learning, keeping up with what’s current and relevant and striving to be the best they can be. Ahead of them are five more cutting levels and two more colour levels they can progress through, as well as adding specialities to their craft such as Keratin treatments, wedding hair and wig cutting.
What happens when they aren’t doing models?
Although their main goal is to qualify, their day to day duties see the trainees supporting the stylists. This means washing clients hair, assisting with colour and keeping the salon clean and tidy. A busy salon also means lots of colour bowls and hair strewn floors. the apprentices work tirelessly behind the scenes to keep our salons spotless.
When they’re not doing this, they’re observing, soaking up all the knowledge they possibly can from their colleagues.
Ask a trainee how their first week as a hairdressing apprentice has gone, and they’ll always say their feet hurt!
What’s the best part of being a trainee?
“The most rewarding thing about being an apprentice is knowing the outcome and that my training will benefit me in the long run and that my apprenticeship is paving my future” says Christie, while Millie tells us that, “making people feel good about themselves is really rewarding and just learning new things all the time. Also, how sociable it is. You’re constantly chatting to people, and everyone gets along. It’s tiring, rewarding and fun”.
Sophy tells us that she’s seen her confidence grow so much, and that “seeing other hairdressers with different techniques and people being creative every day is something that inspires me.” She continues:
“An apprenticeship is hands on, and you get a realistic experience of becoming, and training to be, a hairdresser. You also become part of a team with other people on the same level as yourself and it’s good to push each other to achieve more goals rather than doing it individually.”
Why else should you work for Charlie Miller?
Alongside our hairdressing program we also have an extensive learning timeline to support our younger stylists and help them be the best they can be.
As members of the Charlie Miller family, all staff have immediate access to our wellbeing support team. We provide a listening ear or signpost them to the relevant services. The wellbeing team are also on hand to promote awareness on certain mental health topics. They also offer learning opportunities to explore these topics further.
At Charlie Miller our staff wellbeing is of paramount importance. We go to great lengths to ensure our colleagues work in a safe and comfortable environment.
We’re also mindful that many of those in the hairdressing industry come under the Neurodivergent umbrella. We take pride in our diverse team. Those who have ADHD, Dyslexia, are on the Autism Spectrum, or display any other neurodivergence, are assured that there are certain adjustments that can be put in place to make their career work for them.
It takes all of our staff to be healthy, happy and feel valued to function as a successful business. Our trainees are the future. Without their hard work, dedication and determination we wouldn’t be where we are today.
Thank you to each and every one of our hairdressing apprentices, past and present!
Find out more about the role and how to apply to be a hairdressing apprentice here, or email email@example.com.
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