1 November 2013

The National Hairdressers’ Federation has put itself forward to become one of the government’s sector “trailblazers” helping to map out the future of apprenticeship training.

If successful, the move would mean the NHBF joining leading employers and organisations from eight sectors already signed up as trailblazers, with more expected to come on board.

These trailblazer bodies will, the government has said, be expected to “provide clear examples of effective practice and approaches which others can build on”.

The appointment of trailblazers is being seen as a key element of the government’s ambition to create a new, more employer-based and employer-led framework for apprenticeships.

The initiative was at the heart of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) document, the Future of Apprenticeships in England, published in October, which outlined how the government intends to implement the recommendations of last year’s Richard Review of apprenticeships.

The BIS has argued apprenticeship standards should be set by employers, with these new standards replacing the current frameworks. Such standards, it has added, should be short, accessible and easy to understand, with one standard for each occupation, and should meet the skills requirements of small businesses.

The government will set minimum criteria that all standards will need to meet and has said it will introduce a new grading system, of “pass”, “merit” or “distinction”. All apprenticeships will have to last for a minimum of one year and the requirement for English and maths will be “stepped up gradually”.

Importantly, employers will also be given a key role in developing assessment structures and mechanisms, with assessment primarily focused on end-of-course testing.

The intention is to develop and introduce the structures during 2015/16 and 2016/17, with the government adding: “Our aim is that from 2017/18 all new apprenticeship starts will be based on the new standards. As the new standards are developed and agreed, we plan to cease funding apprenticeships under the current frameworks.”

NHBF chief executive Hilary Hall said the Federation had put itself forward because it was vital the concerns and priorities of hairdressing and barbering were heard and taken on board by the government.

Hairdressing and barbering has an excellent track record in its commitment to offering apprenticeships for young people, and its voice needs to be heard,” she said.


But the government’s goal of simple, clear, independently assessed and employer-led apprenticeships was positive – and by and large exactly what the Federation had been pushing for for many years.

“The National Hairdressers’ Federation is delighted with the government’s outline plan for implementation of the Richard Review. We also welcome its recognition that new-format apprenticeship standards must work for small businesses as well as large employers,” Hilary said.

“The NHBF has long called for assessment independent of training, for example through practical ‘trade tests’ at the end of a programme. Measures such as these will give employers greater confidence trainees will finish training ready for the hard reality of working in a salon,” she added.

However, there was disappointment that the recommendations so far only cover England, even though the government has said it intends to share its approach with the devolved administrations.

“We would also have liked to have seen a longer minimum duration for training and we are concerned increasing the requirements for Maths and English could deter some talented youngsters from coming into hairdressing,” Hilary added.

The NHBF has been leading a pan-industry “expert reference group” that has been working to creating a blueprint for future standards, the final report of which is due to be published in December.

Earlier this year, too, the NHBF published a “manifesto” for apprenticeships, which outlined a six-point plan for the development of more relevant, appropriate and employer-focused training qualifications.