View the full hair and beauty route review report

Review summary

This hair and beauty route review is the second conducted by the Institute. Each of our reviews has provided an exciting and informative opportunity for us to listen to employers, apprentices and providers to get a better understanding of the occupations and skills required within this route and the opportunities and challenges facing employers in developing the future hair and beauty workforce, now and into the foreseeable future. The disruption resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic has made this more important than ever.

We recognise that COVID-19 continues to severely impact this sector and have considered the most appropriate time to publish our findings. We recognise businesses may not have the opportunity to engage with the full report in the current climate and have therefore published a summary of our key findings. We plan to publish a full report later this year.

This summary report details the key outcomes of the Institute’s hair and beauty route review (the review). It includes the changes to the occupational map, recommendations on the hair professional standard and the Institute’s overarching commitments to the route.

Hair and beauty employers have traditionally built the skills they need through vocational and practical training. We know, and celebrate, that the sector particularly recognises the importance of apprenticeships to provide the fundamental skills for individual careers and the wider sector – it is critical that technical education on this route provides the skills, employers, employees and prospective employees need.  We are committed to providing a world-leading foundation for high-quality technical education across apprenticeships, T Levels and higher technical qualifications.

The review has produced an updated occupational map which adds occupations employers have said they need to meet current and future business requirements and removed those that are no longer relevant. The review recommendations on the hair professional standard will ensure that it covers all the necessary knowledge, skills and behaviours for success. The report ensures the technical education offer on the route will be of the highest quality for learners and provides organisations with employees who have the right skills for their business.

1. Review context

We have worked hard to make sure that this review is truly reflective of the views of hair and beauty employers. From the outset, the project has been a highly collaborative process with the views of employers and other stakeholders close to delivery thoroughly engaged throughout, despite the challenges and we would like to thank all those who have found the time to contribute. The review launched in July 2019 with public consultation and engagement with employers (including trailblazer groups), representative organisations, apprentices and providers. Regular and continuous input was sought in the early stages of the review.

In March 2020, the Institute, in consultation with employers, made the decision to slow the pace of route reviews because of the COVID-19 pandemic. While work continued, we were aware of the unprecedented challenges that employers were facing and carefully managed what we asked of them.

Employers that we have engaged with, following the November 2020 national COVID-19 lockdown, advised us that publishing the full details of the review’s findings and recommendations would not be beneficial to the sector at this time. However, a summary report would support trailblazer groups to move forward in making changes to standards where needed and to understand which new occupational standards have been prioritised for development. We will continue to engage with employers to understand and decide whether publishing this full report later this year will further support the development of technical education in the route, reflecting the impact of COVID-19 and the longer-term changes to the sector that may influence future technical education programmes. We plan to run employer engagements alongside the release of the full report to discuss the findings.

We would like to thank all employers who have taken the time to develop the standards in this route and everyone who has contributed to this review.

2. Recommendations for the hair and beauty occupational map

The hair and beauty occupational map sets out the occupations within the hair and beauty route that can be accessed through technical education.

As part of the review, we analysed the occupations that were included on the hair and beauty map to see if they reflected employers’ current and future needs. The focus for the analysis was on occupations that have not yet been developed into occupational standards. This was to ensure that the maps accurately reflected current occupations in the sector. The following changes will be made as a result:

Three occupations have been added to the map:

  1. Barbering professional (technical occupation – level 2/3)
  2. Artistic director (higher technical occupation – level 4/5)
  3. Advanced wellbeing and holistic therapist (higher technical occupation – level 4/5)

Employers highlighted they wanted the barbering option in the hair professional (level 2) to be a standalone standard to recognise the growing prominence of male grooming in the sector and the distinction between the skills, knowledge and behaviours associated with the two occupations. The standard will include updated content, recognising the recent developments in and demand for barbering. This standalone barbering professional standard will be prioritised for development alongside the hairdressing occupation. Once it is authorised for use, the existing option in the hair professional standard will be removed, thus protecting the continuity of provision. In the meantime, barbering will, exceptionally, appear twice on the occupational map, to signal this intention.

Four occupations have been removed from the map:

We have removed the following occupations from the map following consultation feedback and engagement with the sector. This is because the occupations do not meet the Institute’s criteria and/or are covered by other standards. For example, ‘spa treatment’ is covered by the beauty therapist standard and ‘salon manager’ and ‘beauty therapy manager’ by standards in the business and administration route.

  1. Spa treatment (technical occupation – level 2/3)
  2. Massage therapist (technical occupation – level 2/3)
  3. Salon manager (higher technical occupation – level 4/5)
  4. Beauty therapy manager (higher technical occupation – level 4/5)

In addition, as well as barbering professional (technical occupation – level 2/3), aesthetics practitioner (higher technical occupation – level 4/5) will be prioritised for development, following feedback from the sector and evidence that there is a widespread demand for this occupation.

An updated occupational map has been published and can be found here.

3. Recommendations for apprenticeships in scope for this review

The following criteria were used to determine which standards were in scope for the review:

  • apprenticeships which were approved for delivery prior to the establishment of the Institute in April 2017 and where the standard has not been significantly updated since
  • apprenticeships where concerns have been raised over the content of the standard
  • apprenticeships where the standard did not comply with the Institute’s occupational requirements

The hair professional (level 2) – ST0213 was the sole standard to meet the criteria as it was approved for delivery before the Institute was established in 2017.

The standard has been reviewed against the Institute’s quality requirements, taking on board feedback from employers (including trailblazer groups), apprentices and providers, alongside that, received through our public consultation. We also considered feedback from an Institute peer reviewer, who is an independent third-party expert in this occupation.

The Institute’s hair and beauty employer route panel evaluated all the evidence and confirmed the final recommendations.

The following recommendations were made for the hair professional (level 2) standard:

Standard in scope

Hair Professional (level 2)

Review decision

  • The standard currently includes two options: hairdressing and barbering. The two occupations should be separated and appear on the occupational map independently. This reflects the growing importance of male grooming in the sector and the distinction between hairdressing and barbering.
  • The standalone barbering professional standard should be prioritised for development to update and replace the content in the current option and to also include the recent developments in this occupation and male grooming more widely. The standard should incorporate material from the barbering occupational specialism in the hair, beauty and aesthetics T Level, which employers have developed, and amounts to an expansion of the original standard. The T Level content is to be reviewed at an appropriate point once the standard is approved to ensure the two are fully aligned.
  • The revised standard should be updated to ensure that it reflects recent innovations and developments in practice. It is also recommended that the hair professional standard is revised to meet the Institute’s current quality criteria, for example extending the occupational profile to fully describe occupational competence.

The outcomes of the review have been shared with the trailblazer group for the hair professional (level 2). The Institute’s relationship manager will now work closely with them to update the standard which will then be submitted through the Institute’s standard approvals process. As part of this process, the updated standard will also be reviewed to ensure it uses accessible and gender-neutral language, maximising the appeal of the occupation and associated technical education programmes.

Once the occupational standard has been amended, we will determine whether the assessment plan and funding band need to be updated to ensure alignment with the updated occupational standard, following the Institute's normal approvals process for apprenticeships.

4. The Institute commitment to the hair and beauty route

The Institute is committed to supporting the hair and beauty sectors by:

1. Raising the profile and improving the delivery of technical education

  • Raising awareness – switching off framework apprenticeships. We will work with the sector’s professional bodies and employers to promote awareness of the change from framework to standards and what this means for the sector.
  • Improving the perception of working in hair, beauty and aesthetics. We will continue to work closely with employers in the route panel and trailblazers to develop ways to promote the route as providing excellent career opportunities for a wide range of learners with progression opportunities that go beyond levels 2 and 3.
  • Delivery of timely end-point assessment (EPA). We will help promote the work that the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) are doing to provide guidance and training on apprenticeship delivery. We will also review the external quality assurance (EQA) reports to see where improvements can be made to EPAs.
  • Strengthen our relationships with EQAOs, EPAOs and trailblazers. We will seek to further understand how improvements can be made on an ongoing basis to address any issues identified outside of a review process.

2. Improving accessibility to technical education

  • Transferability to small businesses. The majority of employers in hair and beauty are small or micro-businesses. In addition, many people are freelance and self-employed. The review highlighted the challenges these businesses face is finding the time and capacity to develop and deliver apprenticeships. We will continue to ensure that small businesses are involved in the development of apprenticeships and T Levels; this includes ensuring continued compliance with our trailblazer group requirements that requires the inclusion of small businesses in the development of standards.
  • Promoting diversity and inclusion. We will continue to ensure that our route panels, trailblazer and other groups bring together a broad range of employers to ensure that the content of apprenticeships, T Levels and wider technical education programmes clearly reflect the needs of different learners . This will keep diversity and inclusion at the forefront of decision-making. We will also continue to monitor the uptake of apprenticeships and other technical education programmes. Monitoring the uptake will provide us with information on where targeted schemes may be needed to encourage and support a more diverse cohort of learners that better represents the diversity within society.
  • Stimulating the end-point assessment organisations (EPAO) and training provider markets. Through the route panels and reviews, we will encourage employers from all routes to share knowledge and good practice with each other to benefit the wider community in overcoming potential barriers. We will also ensure that other government departments are made aware of potential barriers relating to specific apprenticeships for EPAOs and training providers.
  • Meeting diverse client needs. As a customer-facing occupation, it is important for practitioners to be able to meet a range of client needs. For example, different hair classifications or characteristics or adjustments to meet a client’s disability needs. We will ensure that the content of apprenticeships, T Levels and other technical education programmes reflect these requirements.

3. Supporting the development and delivery of technical education during the COVID-19 pandemic and support recovery

COVID-19 has had a significant impact on employers and apprentices in the hair and beauty route. Restrictions nationally and locally over the past year have meant that businesses have had to continue to be flexible and work hard to adjust to the restrictions.

The Institute is committed to supporting the apprenticeship sector to deal with the significant challenge COVID-19 presents. We will continue to support the delivery of high-quality apprenticeships and T Levels, while putting everyone’s health and wellbeing first. We are also working closely with the DfE, ESFA, Treasury, and the National Apprenticeship Service to ensure a joined-up approach.

You can find out more on our website about how the Institute is supporting the apprenticeship sector to deal with the significant challenge COVID-19 presents. If you are looking for help on a specific apprenticeship, please see our published list of additional flexibilities. At the time of publishing this summary report, there were five hair and beauty apprenticeships with flexibilities in place: advanced beauty therapist (level 3), beauty and makeup consultant (level 2), beauty therapist (level 2), hair professional (level 2) and nail services technician (level 2).  We will keep this under review and make any further updates as required.

The Institute is also committed to continuing to work with employers to mitigate, as far as is possible, the immediate impact of the pandemic and understand the longer-term implications for the occupations within the route, apprenticeships and other technical education programmes.

5. Next steps

The outcomes of the review have been shared with the trailblazer group for the standard in scope. The Institute’s relationship manager will now work closely with the trailblazer group to update the hair professional (level 2) standard. This will then be submitted through the Institute’s approvals process. We would normally expect changes to the apprenticeships to be completed within 12 months of the publication of our recommendations. However, we recognise the need for flexibility and will consult with the trailblazer and the wider sector on the timelines to implement any changes. The hair trailblazer has already made good progress on engaging with its employer group and has begun the process of redeveloping the standard.

We will publish a more detailed report later this year. It will reflect on the impact of COVID-19 on the sector and any longer-term implications for technical education. We plan to run employer engagements alongside the release of the full report to discuss the findings. 

The first T Level in the sector, in hair, beauty and aesthetics, will be developed this year with first teaching scheduled for September 2023. More information on T Levels can be found on our website and on

The next route reviews to be completed are the agriculture, environmental and animal care and engineering and manufacturing route reviews. Further information of the status of each of our route reviews can be found on the Institute’s website.