Beauty’s skills shortage is ongoing. Here’s how to reinvigorate the sector

by | Aug 17, 2023

According to the British Beauty Council’s Value of Beauty 2023, 80,000 young people completed educational qualifications in hair and beauty. However, a large proportion of these graduates didn’t enter the sector.

Here, Millie Kendall O.B.E., CEO of the British Beauty Council, explores why courses aren’t translating into careers, and how to start mending the industry’s skills shortage

Speak to any brand or business owner about recruitment into the beauty sector, and more often than not they’ll be scrambling for new talent. But, why?

When the British Beauty Council first calculated the economic and social footprint of the beauty industry in 2018, it found that the sector supported a total of 590,500 jobs. Fast forward to 2021, and this figure has dropped to 550,000.

The British Beauty Council has investigated what could be making young people reluctant to pursue careers in the personal care sector. Through analysis, we think there are two key challenges: wages – and, unsurprisingly – Brexit. 

Beauty’s wages are still playing catch-up

The Value of Beauty reads: ‘The personal care sector has experienced a skills shortage following the pandemic as people reassess their work life balance and the cost of living continues to rise. Previous research suggests this has led to many leaving the industry for higher-paying roles in hospitality and retail, as well as opting for the flexibility linked with self-employment.’ 

Although the hair and beauty services sector employs a quarter of a million people in the UK, an entry level position is often achieved via apprenticeship. Young apprentices are expected to work for an hourly salary that is significantly below the National Living Wage, and once they enrol their parents are no longer eligible for Child Benefit.

As an industry that champions young people – with almost half of the workforce being under the age of 35-years-old – and provides opportunities across the whole of the UK, we must encourage the government to remove this barrier for entry through incentives. 

We believe that businesses should see apprentices as assets and an inspirational benefit for their business, and there should be increasing incentives for small businesses to train young people, and reskill older generations too. 

Brexit poses unique challenges for recruitment

The UK’s exit from the European Union has affected different sectors in various ways. Beauty’s sore spot? You guessed it – loss of skills due to low wages.

Shedding light on the link between low wages, Brexit, and new talent, the Value of Beauty report reads: ‘59% of full-time and 95% of part time employees in the personal care industry earned less than the minimum earnings required to apply for a skilled worker visa in the UK in 2022.’

To qualify for a Skilled Worker Visa post-Brexit, people need to be earning at least £25,600 per year or £10.10 per hour. However, there are some exceptions highlighted on the Shortage Occupation List – a directory of roles that the UK government deem to be in short supply – but at present, no beauty roles are included on it. 

The UK Government has been clear that additions to the Shortage Occupation List should only ever be seen as temporary and that included industries must show that solutions to address issues in pay and skills are in motion on UK soil, rather than in relying on overseas labour to fix our recruitment woes long term.

The British Beauty Council is lobbying the government to include certain beauty-related roles to the Shortage Occupation List to provide short term relief for the sector by ensuring its workforce meets demand. Having fed into the Migration Advisory Committee’s call for evidence on updates to the list, the Council is working with key policy makers to push for jobs which can’t, or aren’t, being filled domestically to be added.

Longer term is a lot more tricky – paying the workforce more is clearly easier said than done with post-COVID recovery, the war in Ukraine, the cost of living crisis all affecting businesses bottom lines. With greater incentives to take on apprentices, support on energy bills, rent and rates and tax breaks – companies can invest in staff, further helping to raise the reputation of the sector.

You can learn more about the Council’s work to reinvigorate the sector here and download the Value of Beauty 2023 Summary report here

Originally published by Industry.Beauty.

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