The NHBF has commissioned a major new independent report, 'Careers at the cutting edge: tackling the skills crisis in the hair & beauty sector', to analyse the current challenges that the sector is experiencing around skills and recruitment.

A set of challenges that existed pre-Covid has now been accentuated by the pandemic and the current pressures of business, staff and energy costs. Although the themes may not appear new to some, the report captures a moment in time, gives the data behind these challenges and quantifies the current issues.

Key findings

The report finds that multiple interlinked factors, including qualifications & training, recruitment & retention, and financial pressures, all create a skills crisis. The report concludes that these are more than just challenges and that the sector is facing a perfect storm

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Many are familiar with the fall in the number of apprenticeships that start over the last five years or more, partly due to fewer candidates from schools, the sector shift towards self-employment, and lower funding levels. Worryingly, if current trends continue, the report sets out that there will be fewer than 3400 hair & beauty apprenticeship starting in the UK by 2025.

Employers are concerned that college leavers lack ‘salon ready’ skills and that the knowledge of some tutors is out of date.

The stark data shows that 57% of hair & beauty businesses have unfilled vacancies, and more than half of vacancies have taken businesses over 16 weeks to fill. Some experienced staff are leaving the sector, in some cases, to go to better paid roles elsewhere, including other parts of retail.
Financial pressures post Covid and in the current environment of high business and energy costs, rise in staff costs (NMW/NLW/NICs) is impacting on the ability of businesses to take on trainees, particularly when almost half think that it can take 2-3 years in the salon before a trainee covers their costs. Businesses can’t afford to raise their prices in the current climate as consumers may not pay but need to attract talent to the sector.

Solutions and recommendations

Just as there is no single cause of the skills crisis in the hair & beauty sector, there is no single solution.
The report makes a series of recommendations on these themes targeted at the Government, education providers and industry, including better marketing of the sector to boost new recruits.

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The NHBF is keen to take forward these recommendations in collaboration and partnership with the wider sector, including discussions around industry self-regulation to professionalise the sector, discussions with the education sector around improving college courses, further financial support from the government, particularly to support the funding gap for older trainees, e.g. 19+ years and boost sector-wide campaigns to reframe schools’ perception of the sector as a career option.

Please read the full report  – give us your views, and join us in the campaign. Together, we can ensure a thriving sector in the future.


The report is based on an industry-wide survey of nearly 600 businesses across the sector and interviews with 20 business owners across the UK and with some education providers. The analysis was carried out by the consultancy Pragmatix which has previously written a report about the impact of the pandemic on the hair and beauty sector.