“Our business will only thrive in the future if we keep adding value to it through vocational training and the skills of the team.”
Those are the words of Janine O’Callaghan, joint owner of professional hair salon, Spirit Hair Team in Ystrad Mynach, one of three finalists in the running to become VQ (Vocational Qualification) Employer of the Year at the showpiece awards ceremony on June 9 at St David’s Hotel, Cardiff.
Organised by the Welsh Government’s Department for Education and Skills (DfES), the National Training Federation for Wales (NTfW) and CollegesWales, the VQ Awards help to showcase individuals and organisations that have raised the standard of the services they offer as a result of vocational qualifications.
The awards, which are part funded by the European Social Fund, are now in their eighth year and coincide with VQ Day – a UK-wide celebration of vocational qualifications for students, teachers, training providers and employers – which is held on June 10.
Janine and business partner Donna Friend are both passionate about vocational qualifications and continuing professional development to achieve quality hairdressing and professional customer service. Team members are encouraged to participate in apprenticeships and to take advantage of learning and competition opportunities.
Finding it difficult to recruit good, skilled staff when they started the business, they established an apprenticeship programme, working with Bridgend-based training provider ISA Training, local schools and colleges.
The business, which has a team of 18, has taken on 34 apprentices over the past 10 years and plans to recruit more as part of an expansion programme. Janine calculates that the salon’s apprentices have contributed around £400,000 to the business by introducing 1,400 clients over the past two years.
“Without vocational qualifications we wouldn’t have a business,” she said. “It’s imperative that we continue with them to support our plans to specialise and expand into different areas.
“We need team members who are proactive and want to increase their skills right across the board, as we develop team leaders and customer service focused and business and management trained staff.
“Over the last two years, we have developed a structure to encourage advancement and success and everyone has the same opportunities to move up the ranks. We have created an environment where apprentices realise that training is key to their future success.
“The beauty of vocational qualifications is their flexibility and the opportunities for additional learning experiences which produces a workforce that is extremely employable with a wealth of transferable skills.”
The other VQ Employer of the Year finalists are food manufacturer Dailycer UK from Deeside and children’s nursery Little Inspirations from Llantrisant. The award recognises employers who promote the value of vocational qualifications in the workplace and make a real contribution, relative to their size, to improving skills and national competitiveness.
Deputy Minister for Skills and Technology, Julie James congratulated the inspirational finalists and also praised all the employers who had entered the VQ Awards this year.
“A VQ Award is more than just an award; it’s a symbol of dedication towards your chosen profession,” she said. “Professional and personal development programmes are utilised for staff to enable them to follow a pathway of learning to meet company, customer and individual needs.
“The VQ Awards help us to celebrate those Welsh employers and learners who are already going that extra mile when it comes to developing vocational skills and qualifications.
“If the Welsh economy is to continue to grow then we must ensure that employers, individuals and the Welsh Government work together to invest in the right skills for success in order to equip Wales with a world class work force.”