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24-03-2017 by 
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We'd like to thank Amber for her generosity in completing our Q&A for Skills for Growth Alumni learners.  We're always keen to hear about the careers of our former learners - do get in touch if you have a story you'd like to share! 

Amber Thornton | Former Hairdressing Apprentice

How did your journey start? How did you find out about apprenticeships?

My employer Maggie Flockton sent me to Skills for Growth (formerly known as Bexley Training Group).  I know she wanted me to go there rather than another Bexley college.

Tell us about your employer and the kind of work you are currently undertaking?

I manage a Hair salon called Loaf Hair in Bromley.  I have a team of 3 stylists and 2 apprentices.  I would like more stylists but find it difficult to find quality staff.

What is life as an apprentice is really like?

I loved it!!  I felt useful, and quite excited and enjoyed spending time with the clients talking to them.  We were treated like an intrinsic part of the business and shared in the lovely end results that were created.

I probably didn’t realise how much I learned until a new apprentice started, and when comparing myself to them I was quite impressed by what I knew.  When I started running a column on the salon floor I felt very confident that I knew what I was doing, or at least knew what I didn’t know.

How would you encourage others to take up an apprenticeship?

Without a doubt.   It enables you to learn the job, from those who do the job. 

It is important to select the right company to work for, and the right training provider to work with, who will together support and educate you, and ride in tandem with one another so that what you do at work is reflected in the underpinning knowledge that is delivered at  the training provider.  Of course this comes about through the experience of both parties, so maybe employers and the lecturers and other training staff need to come together more prior to the first trainee being inducted.

It’s also important that your training hours work well for you so that you’re getting the most from both work and college.  If your college day is when your workplace holds training you’re missing out - or if you try to attend both you may be doing too much.  Could workplaces and curriculum heads try to dovetail their expectations and even the wording of resources?

You also need to be able to attend both places fairly easily.  A journey that takes 3 buses over an hour and a half will probably leave you exhausted before you’ve even started.  Some help journey planning may be useful - a lot of young people don’t really have much independent knowledge.

I benefited greatly from having a ‘mentor’ to support me at Skills for Growth, that I felt I could talk things over with and whom I felt was on my side.  Although this wasn’t an actual service that was provided, maybe nowadays it could be - a personal tutor or mentor.  As I say this it could be another employer, or a non-teaching team member.

Seeing progress is really important, especially with the instant world young people now live in.  A ‘do the job’ day every 6 months or so could help a candidate see what they have achieved.  Within hairdressing I would possibly hold a salon day, where the level 2 apprentices run a column offering sets and drys, simple haircuts, all over colours etc (maybe to members of their college mates salons….), and more ‘difficult’ clients come for consultation.

Presently one of my trainees is studying at another provider, that will only assess ‘their’ specified techniques.  I find it very difficult to support this team member as I don’t know enough about the techniques used to correct or question her.  I think this could have been avoided by them holding a session where the employers or in-salon trainers were shown what was being taught and encouraged to examine these so they could assist the trainee, even if they couldn’t assess them.  I feel this has created a divide within my salon, that has isolated that team member unnecessarily and possibly hindered their achievements.

 

What does the future hold? You are qualified now, so what plans do you have for the future? Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?

I’m taking over the world….!!

After running salons for 4.5 years now I’m about to embark on a Trichology qualification with the Institute of Trichologists in Tooting.  This is something I’ve wanted to do for a dozen years but only now do I feel financially stable to take the time for this.  I also feel that all my other experience at work has contributed towards me potentially being really good at this.

During my Level 3 NVQ at SFG I achieved the D32/33 qualification and enjoyed steering others to success so much that I then completed a Certificate in Education teaching course at the University of Greenwich.  

This lead me to both FE colleges and private training providers teaching both NVQ courses  and particular looks and techniques created by various hairstylists or artistic teams. 

Probably my favourite job was working at the Goldwell Academy as the Technical Helpline technician.  Stylists would call with either a problem or a potential problem and I had to advise them of the best course for action, without seeing the client myself.  This was quite fun, as some callers ability to describe a clients hair was rather…limited.

I firmly believe that my confidence, success and enjoyment of my profession is clearly linked to the support and understanding I received at Skills for Growth.  During both my Level 2 and 3 courses I experienced difficulties with my employers, and the team at 17 Upland Road helped me complete my qualification, and kept me encouraged and active.

Although I think now all the staff have changed, and the name of course I feel the same commitment, patience and skill from the teams there, as when I first attended in 1996.  

Both my apprentices that have attended in the last 4 years have come out confident and capable hairdressers, and that's not just due to them working for me!!

 

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