Despite the challenges posed by pandemic lockdowns the UK’s leading hairdressing, barbering & beauty training provider, Saks Apprenticeships, is celebrating its second consecutive “Outstanding Provider” rating from inspection body Ofsted.

Saks Apprenticeships is a national education provider to independent hairdressers across the UK. The training is delivered through an extensive network of educators who provide in salon apprentice training across the country and also inhouse via its Saks academies located in Darlington and Maidstone.

Ofsted awarded the training provider a full suite of grade one ratings during its most recent inspection, continuing the theme from its last inspection 15 years ago – a very significant achievement for Saks Apprenticeships and its dedicated employees.

On the back of this latest accolade, Saks Apprenticeships is offering salons the chance to use its fantastic services to help attract more people into the hair and beauty industry. This comes with a salary for the students and an incentive payment to the salons, creating a win-win situation for all parties.

The company offers level 2 and level 3 apprenticeships in hairdressing, barbering, beauty therapy and nail services at over 600 prestigious salons throughout the UK. More than 6,500 apprentices have qualified since its inauguration in 1999 and are now in a multitude of senior roles including salon owners, senior managers – even joining the fashion industry. The Ofsted report noted that apprentices demonstrate highly professional behaviours and attitudes to their work. Additionally, a strong focus on professional behaviours embedded in the curriculum sets a clear standard for apprentices to follow.

The report added that Saks Apprenticeships’ programmes enable learners to prepare well for working with clients and help them to develop a passion for hairdressing and beauty therapy through their work in prestigious salons. Apprentices also benefit from a range of professional training that is additional to the main programme, so they become highly valued employees and make very good progress in developing their knowledge and skills.

Managing Director Tina Ockerby explained: “When the company was founded over 20 years ago, I had high hopes it would transform the nature of training for hairdressing and barbering careers, and here we are with this double accolade from Ofsted. It’s a real credit to our apprentices and educators – and of course the salons across the UK who support their learners so wholeheartedly.

“There is currently a national shortage of stylists so enrolling an apprentice is the perfect way for a salon to gain a very enthusiastic extra pair of hands, and share their skills creating home grown talent to meet their own standards. And with so many different career options available to learners after they complete their apprenticeship it’s one of the best ways for a young person to get a foothold in what could be a career for life. A stylist, beauty therapist, barber, artist or educator – the world is their oyster.”

The Ofsted report also recognised how, during the pandemic, Saks Apprenticeships came into their own after the closure of salons during the initial lockdown, with the provider immediately sending hairdressing and beauty equipment to learners. A Facebook forum and Zoom sessions were used to schedule demonstrations and lessons, setting daily tasks for apprentices and encouraging them to post their work.

Tina Ockerby added: “We knew we had to make a huge effort when the coronavirus struck to avoid losing our apprentices to lockdown. Our team and the employers all went above and beyond the requirements of the apprenticeship standard and a remote learning survey of apprentices gave us an excellent rating of 4.5 out of 5. It’s not just about delivering the programme – here we do everything to an exceptional level with fastidious attention to detail and support 24/7 through the whole network. That’s why we’re the best UK educator in this sector.”

It was no surprise to the chair of the Saks Education governing body, Phil Hatton, that the Ofsted inspection team still found Saks Education to be an outstanding provider after 15 years. He concluded: “Managers have been involved in the steering groups for the development of standards-based apprenticeships in hair and beauty since day one. They are the best provider I have ever seen for self-assessment, quality improvement, professional development of staff, support for apprentices, safeguarding and the focus that all have on developing practical skills. I am proud to be associated with them and what they do so well.”