Leading Apprentices: What is our responsibility?


Apprenticeships in Ontario need to achieve 2000 hours on a salon floor in order to become certified hairstylists. This is approximately one year of working at forty hours per week. I often hear from apprentices that they are in a hurry to complete and receive their qualifications as a journeyperson. This is interesting because I think we tend to hyperfocus on getting the thing that we want, or that we think we want, because we feel it will somehow give us satisfaction, happiness, success, and so on. If we pay attention, we tend to repeat this cycle, always chasing the next best thing. This is my observation, at least.

If we take a closer look, occupations that are very self-directed and allow for creativity often take a substantial amount of self-awareness and the ability to enroll others (customers) on a journey. Maybe we need to look at apprentices as individuals and build awareness and specific training for them. Why? Because in my experience, I have asked the question “why on average do hairstylists only book 30% of their available time for sale behind the chair?” The answer, at least in my perspective, is that a certain level of maturity and life experience is required to increase that percentage.

person cutting hairPhoto by Maria Geller from Pexels

One benchmark in particular that I have noticed is the ability for an apprentice or young stylists to be able to relate to people. In my experience, this only happens when they begin to experience failure in relationships. An example of this is dating. This is the purpose of dating. Is it not? To experience who we are in relation to others. To experience others and who they are in the world. This is critical in self-development and self-expression as a person, as an artist and in business. I don't think we bring this forward in our consciousness or in our conversations with our young people. 

This could be very useful if we were more intentional and open about this as a natural and useful method of human development. What if we started making this conversation part of the normal way of interacting with teens and twenty-somethings? Consider this as a significant source of anxiety, depression and other serious mental health problems that our young people are experiencing. We largely leave them to their own devices to navigate through this—and I don't think it's going that well. 

person mixing hair colourPhoto by cottonbro from Pexels

We all have experienced a salesperson who uses unsavoury methods to convince us to purchase something because they need us to for their own reasons. A person who can get related to a person uses their skills of relatability to find out what someone needs and wants and then provides them with solutions, and invites them to choose. 

At the end of the day, part of our responsibility as sponsors and trainers is to provide skilled feedback and wisdom to our apprentices. We must honour their age and stage of life and engage them appropriately so that we can develop them and bring them to a place of self-expression in adulthood.