West Lothian project
When Eric Burton, 16-plus Learning Choices coordinator at West Lothian, talks about the hairdressing schools project he helps run with Ambition Centre for Training, you can hear the warm satisfaction in his voice. No wonder – high retention rates, excellent work experience opportunities and good transition from school into the profession characterise the project, which was established by ACT and Mr Burton’s predecessor, Laura Quilter, last year.
West Lothian opted to consolidate its vocational training in hairdressing at one centre rather than offer it at individual schools, not just to keep costs down but to ensure the pupils acquired a real insight into what working in hairdressing actually feels like. Every Monday the young people who succeeded in getting a place on the course train in one of ACT’s satellite training centres, at RK Hair Studio in Bathgate. They also do a placement in a salon, organised by ACT, giving up their free time on Friday afternoons or Saturdays.
The pupils are working in a real salon environment dealing with real clients and the real issues that face a hair salon every day, assisting and shampooing clients’ hair. ‘Our pupils tell me there are certain clients who insist on having them wash their hair because they like the way they do it,’ reports Eric. ‘This is a real working experience for them and they are not even 16 yet. They get to experience all aspects of the job, including how to deal with people, and they can see the financial implications of work every time they are there.’
Eight girls are currently signed up for the two-term course that will finish with an SVQ in Hairdressing Level 1. Every Monday they go along to RK Hair Studio to be taught the theory of hairdressing as well as presentation skills, team-working and basic literacy and numeracy by Rebecca Kelly, a qualified educator and owner of the salon. There is no doubt the pupils are engaged, enthusiastic and determined to succeed.
‘They asked if they could still go in on their holidays and some have managed to get Saturday jobs and permanent apprenticeship positions with ACT’s help. They have really embraced the whole experience. When they started they asked what they should wear, but we didn’t have a budget for uniforms,’ adds Eric, keen to demonstrate the pupils’ enthusiasm. ‘So they decided they should wear bright pink tunics and they went out and bought them for themselves.’
He adds: ‘It is wonderful working with ACT, because the course is taught by real hairdressers and they bring in industry specialists from the other companies, such as the technical trainer of L’Oréal in Scotland. It allows us to provide a realistic, cost-effective vocational education to our pupils and a positive pathway of skills learning for their future careers.’