‘There is a profound difference between ‘competent’ and ‘confident’ once a therapist has completed their diploma. How much real learning falls outside of formal qualifications?’

This question, put forward by Jay Chapman from Zing Business Coaching, was one of six discussed over lunch at Professional Beauty’s fourth industry round table.

Our eight industry supplier and salon owner experts – including Lycon Cosmetics’ Lydia Jordane, Aesthetic Enterprises’ Tracy Lee Dobbin, Ex Import Niche Products’ Otto Mitter, Skin Fitness’ Linda Fenech, InSkin Cosmedics’ Maria Cocciolone, The Skin Clinic Concord’s Belinda Merlino, MediSpa Solutions’ Mariza Nuttall and Face To Face Skin & Body Care’s Maree Mondello – said energy, time and money needed to be invested wisely for training of therapists, from juniors right through to managerial staff to continually bridge the gap between competence and confidence.

The roundtable guests, who examined the effectiveness of training programs as part of the broader issue of education and training in the beauty industry, agreed there was no substitute for experience.

Tracy said each training organisation was different but training in a simulated environment had a number of advantages, while Maree said competent was what you were when you graduated, but confident was an accumulation of all the knowledge that you gained after that.

Maria said graduates coming out of colleges today were not the graduates that came out 30 years ago, while Otto said a lot of the students coming out of beauty may not necessarily be passionate about being beauty therapists.

Mariza said the salons that did well in education were the salons that were pre-planning their education, while Lydia said it was important to keep an open mind, no matter how skilled you were.

Belinda said it was important to constantly invest in education, while Linda said she paired up senior staff with junior employees to improve their competency.

Mariza recommended using scripts post-training and identifying each person’s learning style to maximise their information retention.

Read their edited responses below or watch the video for the full discussion.

“It depends on the training organisation, the environment, the teachers that are providing the training, the culture of the organisations, etc. A lot of colleges have non-negotiable clinic hours, so the therapists get an enormous amount of practical training. They may have the opportunity to rebook, manage, plan treatments and work on reception. Even though it’s a simulated environment, it’s a great experience and it’s a lot of learning that can potentially take place in an educational institution. However, having said all of that, it has to be on the job. There are salons that provide little or no training. It’s a great shame.”

“Competent is what you are when you graduate the course, but confident is an accumulation of all the knowledge that you gain after that. It’s the application of the knowledge that you gain within the parameters of that course. Every time you apply that knowledge to a client, the circumstances are different. You have to apply that knowledge and work with what you have. Confident comes with experience. I don’t know that confidence necessarily is something that you’re going to get on graduation. You’ll be competent, but not confident. There has to be a continuation of education. It has to be planned education within a salon, to keep staff learning and adding to their knowledge base, because our industry changes yearly. It changes seasonally, it changes constantly with science. It changes all the time. That means we have to be on top of our game and knowledge is our best weapon.”

“Graduates coming out of colleges today are not the graduates that came out 30 years ago, 20 years ago, 10 years ago. I hear that all the time, that sadly, the graduates aren’t confident. They panic if they’re put in a situation. There is a lot to look at when it comes to the schools today. I was in a college not long ago where they were telling me the competency on eyebrow waxing is that you only need to be able to do one. But what about the other eyebrow? Ten bikini waxes, 20, 100, 500 – that’s where confidence comes. It’s not just about that protocol of ‘How do I situate the leg?’ and ‘How do I apply the wax?’ it’s about ‘How do I talk to this customer? How do I make her feel comfortable? How do I get her to come back because that experience was second to none?’ I went to one college and did a presentation and the girls just stared blankly at me and I couldn’t understand why my training was so boring. Then I found out they didn’t speak English.”

“We’ve seen an influx of beauty students over the last few years, but a lot of these students may not necessarily be passionate about being beauty therapists. They’re just taking it because it’s an easy option. This could be a touchy subject. But I have seen that throughout the years and some of the students don’t really want to be there. They’re just there because they have the opportunity and they didn’t really know where they wanted to be. Another thing I have seen in the industry is the pressure that is sometimes put on therapists in a salon, say for example when a new product comes on board. They may not be given the time to perfect that treatment. Then they’re pressured into releasing that service in the salon without enough time on training. That is something that I think salon owners have to be very aware of. You want the best results for your customers; you want your team to be feeling very confident in the service. That completely relates to competent or confident. You have to absolutely practise. Practise makes perfect, practise gives confidence.”

“The salons we support that do very well in education are the salons that are pre-planning their education. Not just deciding ‘Oh, next week you’re all going to go to do needling,’ or ‘Next week you’re going to go do HiFu’. They pre-plan from either 12 months or six months. Twelve months is a little bit harder for some salons because of staff turnover, but I think for at least six months you need to have a plan on which trainings you’re going to send which staff to so they can become more confident in those specific areas.”

“I’ve come across a lot of the therapists all over the world and the thing they often say is, ‘Oh, gosh, I’ve been in the industry 25 years. What can you train me on? I know everything.’ My specialty is waxing. When I start working with them, I have to be really careful not to offend them, but somehow to open up and accept the training. That can be a real challenge. That applies to everything. If you swing someone around to participate and listen to you, you’ve lost them. If they can see that it’s a bit different, they start participating. From college, teachers should instigate that there are a lot of people the students will continue to learn from. Never close your mind to thinking you’re the best. I have changed my techniques over the years and I still do. I’m always looking for something better to do with whichever treatment it is. That’s what the therapist should be very, very open to.”

“I find it sad to hear that some established clinic owners or people in the industry think they know it all. I invest in training for myself repeatedly and come away differently each and every time, regardless of what the training session is. I often block off time within my clinic and I’ll sit down with the girls and we’ll do a scenario that may not have gone as well as it should have throughout the week. We’ll fine-tune how to improve it next time. It’s all about communication at the end of the day.”

“I’ve got junior staff that pair up with senior staff to get their competency basis up. It’s often hard to afford to be able to send multiple therapists to training. Someone could be competent in the college, working quite slowly, but when you’re in a salon, you’re under the pump. You have to hurry up and create some shortcuts, but still deliver the results. Also, it can be dangerous to strive for perfection – you cannot be a perfectionist because then you stop learning.”

“Developing scripts for your younger staff that have just come out of training is great give them confidence, even though they’re competent. Scripts really help them – have them laminated and readily available. Also, identify each person’s their learning style. My son learns with movement. Some people learn logically, some people learn through communication styles in groups. Other people learn on their own. Understanding how your staff member learns, is it through music, is it through movement, is it logically, that can also help you as a salon owner to be able to get that information and for them to be able to explain that information.”