Beauty is skills deep… Origin of skills development
Skills development in South Africa has its origins in the early seventies. The idea started with labour unions that called for a type of system where members could attain, benchmark and manage the progress of their skills. It was believed by labour that skills were not adequately recognised, as only formal qualifications were considered when remuneration was discussed.
At the time, little formal training existed in the various fields of the beauty profession. Training in the Beauty SPA industry for example, was non existent. Individuals with real skills and competence enjoyed little or no formal recognition of their abilities on account of the absence of a formal system against which they could benchmark their skills. Business and management argued against high salary levels, citing these low skills as justification.
The time was right to create a system where formal recognition would be given for skills. However, the fact that these skills comprised smaller parts of an overall qualification presented a problem. The system called for a modular approach – almost a ‘building block’ approach. This would expose professionals to a system where learning could take place in steps but on a formalised basis, leading in time to a full qualification.
Why skills development is necessary in the beauty industry
Skills development in the beauty industry presents the beauty professional with an opportunity to complete formal training in their specific area of expertise, such as skin care, facials, etc. These ‘clusters’ of skills, called skills programmes, enable the beauty professional to accumulate skills bit by bit. Enrolling for an entire qualification might be daunting in view of work and other time-related pressures. Often these full qualifications are also offered only on a full-time basis (during the day), making it impossible to work and study part-time. The skills programme approach, on the other hand, enables the learner to acquire smaller sections of a qualification one at a time. These skills programmes can then be ‘articulated’ into a qualification.
Benefits of skills development for the beauty professional
The benefits of skills for the beauty professional are plentiful:
• Learners can obtain a formal qualification by completing the right combination of skills programmes.
• Skills programmes are competency-based rather than theoretical, as many qualifications were previously.
• Being competency-based, skills programmes can be used to measure performance.
• Skills programmes concentrate on real skills and applied knowledge that can be used to earn a living.
• Learners can use their practical experience to demonstrate competency in various skills.
• As skills are measured, skills gaps and skills development opportunities can be gauged.
• Skills programmes make it possible to compare the performance of one professional with that of another.
• Learners can benchmark their skills against formal skills programmes developed on a professional basis.
• Specific, individual skills can also be formalised and benchmarked on an international and professional basis.
Beauty, skills and unit standards
The development of skills for the beauty industry starts with the development of unit standards. Unit standards are documents that are put together by standards generating bodies (SGBs). They indicate the required level of knowledge as well as the required level of application of such knowledge for a particular skill or area of study. In other words, the unit standard is actually a performance standard that states what should be done, how it should be done and what prior knowledge is required to do it. Depending on the complexity, the amount of time and the level at which the task takes place, a credit value and level are assigned to the standard.
Assessment, training and RPL
The concept of assessment indicates a measurement of competency. Competency is measured as an absolute – a person is either competent or not yet competent. Competency refers to the stage where a person is performing a task at the required level, with the required level of information.
Training refers to the process that takes place either in the classroom or on the job, whereby a learner is guided and assisted towards competency.
The concept of RPL – recognition of prior learning – is often misunderstood. RPL refers to the recognition of a person’s past experience in proving their competency in relation to a unit standard. RPL can be seen as an alternative to training. However, it is often mistakenly taken to be an alternative for assessment. RPL does not in fact replace assessment; it simply means that one can use one’s knowledge to demonstrate competency. For example, a beauty professional with no qualification can ask an assessor to observe her doing a facial and to measure this against the requirements in the appropriate unit standards. This measurement then has to be documented in an assessment instrument.
RPL has certain advantages:
• It can help one obtain a qualification by demonstrating competency based on prior learning that is not classroom-based.
• It can save time, in that one does not have to sit in a classroom or undergo training in a training facility.
• It gives formal recognition to past experience and competency.
• It enables the learner to save on training costs.
• It prompts learners to keep naturally-occurring evidence for future use.
RPL also has certain impediments:
• RPL is often time-intensive.
• Having to collect and collate evidence can be costly and difficult, as people tend not to keep records of past experiences.
• RPL is sometimes impractical.
• RPL can be expensive.
• RPL requires past experience to be analysed and compared with a set of unit standards, often making the process more difficult than attending training.
Nestled in the heart of the bush, an African Day Spa is at the forefront of skills development in the beauty industry. Staff are currently undergoing training in programmes such as Customer Management, Contact Centre Management and Administration. Skills development is also a very important driver in black economic empowerment (BEE).
The introduction of skills-based training is the answer to the up-skilling of the nation. The benefits are many and varied – from a more productive and more skilled workforce to higher earnings and profit. The real winner, though, is the fact that all of this can take place in small, bite-sized skills programmes of high quality.