Flexible, adaptable, work-based training needed for barbers and hairdressers

Flexible and adaptive blended and work-based training is needed to prepare those launching careers as either barbers or hairdressers, and to best serve the unique needs of both in Aotearoa.

Kia Ita! is the first workforce development plan (WDP) for Toi ā-Ringa (Art and Design) created by Toi Mai Workforce Development Council. This plan specifically focuses on the barbering and hairdressing industries and addresses two persistent challenges limiting progression and sustainability.

“The first challenge is that formal training for barbering and hairdressing is currently lengthy, inflexible and often not relevant to industry or learner needs – leading to high attrition and graduates who are not always work ready,” says Te Tumu o Toi | CEO of Toi Mai, Dr Claire Robinson. “This leads to businesses losing confidence in formal training and often doing remedial training at their own expense.

“The second challenge is that barbering and hairdressing have different needs that aren’t reflected in their shared training, regulation or industry representation. This creates a two-tier system where barbers have to conform to the expectations and standards of a system designed for hairdressers – with little relevance to their own profession.”

The title of the WDP Kia Ita! (“to be tight”, as in a topknot) draws inspiration from the ancient Māori pūrākau of Māui who was wrapped in the tikitiki (topknot) of his mother Taranga and cast into the moana when she mistakenly thought him to be still born. Robinson says a ‘tight’ industry is one that enables learners and graduates to succeed, and this WDP provides a framework that industry and government can use to enable a thriving workforce.

Kia Ita! recommends several key changes relating to training, funding and regulations for barbers to better reflect industry’s needs for a well-trained and ready workforce with fewer regulations and less compliance. It also advocates for improved industry representation of barbers.

For hairdressers, Kia Ita! recommends increasing work-based learning, revised apprenticeship models and updated regulations to reflect contemporary hairdressing practices.

“Toi Mai wants hairdressing to be seen as a prestigious and attractive industry with a strong community, focused on offering consistently excellent services and earning good incomes. Equally, we want to see the barbering industry sharing knowledge and embracing the artform as a taonga, especially in the Māori and Pacific communities.”

Robinson encourages barber and hairdresser workforce members and education providers to provide feedback on the plan’s actions and recommendations.

“Toi Mai wishes to thank all stakeholders who have previously contributed their valuable time to help us advance this WDP to the consultation phase.

“Now we need to know if we have got that thinking right. We are encouraging industry members, learners, education providers and those with an interest in the barbering and hairdressing sector to have an important say in shaping the future of Toi ā-Ringa.”

Stakeholder feedback will inform the final recommendations and help produce a roadmap the industry, government and others can use to realise the productive potential of the sector.

Consultation on Kia Ita! is open until 22 July. For details on the consultation process visit the Toi ā-Ringa webpage.

Key Facts:

  • Toi Mai is one of six Workforce Development Councils (WDCs) established in 2021. The WDCs have a legislative remit to align education and training with industry needs, and to raise the skills and vocational training available to industries.
  • Toi Mai aims to ensure the creative, cultural, recreation and technology sectors in Aotearoa – Ngā Peka o Toi – are supported by a skilled, diverse and thriving workforce.
  • Stakeholder feedback is currently being sought on four new workforce development plans and one industry development plan developed in close collaboration with industry stakeholders.
  • Toi ā-Ringa (Art and Design) encompasses the barbering, hairdressing, beauty, fashion, advertising, visual media and communication industries. Hairdressing is the largest of the Toi ā-Ringa occupations, returning $678m revenue in 2023.
  • Barbering and hairdressing processes evolve alongside technologies. There is a long history of barbering and hairdressing practices dating back thousands of years, and hair has strong cultural significance in many societies across the world.
  • Of the 14,262 people employed in the hairdressing, barbering and beauty industries in 2023, 13.6% were Māori, 3.6% were Pacific peoples and about 87% were women.
  • Kia Ita! has identified five recommendations and six actions. Collectively, they target a shift towards flexible and adaptive blended and work-based training that better prepares learners for their careers, and better reflects the unique needs of barbers in Aotearoa as well as hairdressers. They also require barbers to have a stronger voice and representation as an industry, and for regulations to reflect their needs.