Thirteen current and former hairdressing and beauty apprentices who broadened their career horizons by taking part in work experience visits to Europe over the past five years were reunited at an event in Cardiff.
The event at St David’s Hotel was arranged by Bridgend-based ISA Training, the largest independent hair and beauty training provider in Wales.
Since 2013, the company has organised seven visits to Spain, Cyprus, Finland and Germany with funding support from the European Commission’s Leonardo and Erasmus+ programmes, which offer exciting opportunities for UK participants to study, work, volunteer, teach and train in Europe.
Representatives of each of the seven visits, which saw 55 Welsh apprentices work in salons in the host countries for up to two weeks, attended the reunion with family and friends.
The European visits are part of ISA Training’s Oyster Project, which is based on the saying ‘The world is your oyster’. The project aims to enhance the learning experience of apprentices, increase their confidence and broaden their career horizons.
Future Oyster Project visits include Spain and Greece in 2019 and Germany in 2020.
Hairdresser Marcus Scott, who joined the first visit to Tarragona, Spain in 2013, described it as a valuable learning experience.
“Having the opportunity to be funded to go and work abroad for two weeks was a great experience and something that I would otherwise never have done,” he said
“It gave me the opportunity to go to another country to see how they work and to compare it to how we work here in Wales. It was also really good for communication skills because the salon where I worked didn’t speak any English and it was a case of finding ways to get by.”
Since his Spanish work experience, Marcus has lectured at Pembrokeshire College, worked in a Cardiff salon and is now working in the Hair House in Merthyr Tydfil while preparing to open a new business, Smith and Co Hair Boutique in Milford Haven, on November 3.
Caitlin Wilson, 23, a hair stylist at Spirit Hair Team in Ystrad Mynach, went to Tarragona with ISA Training in 2015, where she learned different blow-drying techniques and new ways of working which she had shared with her workmates on her return.
Taking Spanish in her GCSEs at school also came in useful, as she was able to converse with staff in her host salon. “Going to Spain opened a lot more doors for me and gave me the confidence to carry on in hairdressing,” said Caitlin, who lives in Abercynon.
Caitlin, who is working towards an Apprenticeship in hairdressing, hopes to continue progressing with Spirit Hair Team to a senior stylist within the next two years.
Cheryl Pearcey, ISA Training’s partnership manager, said she had enjoyed seeing the learners again and hearing how their careers had progressed. One of the learners, Emily Morgan, was unable to attend as she is now working in Australia.
“The visits provide the learners with an opportunity to travel and work in a foreign country as opposed to visiting as a tourist,” added Cheryl. “Every one of the learners has grown in confidence as a result of their experience and learned different ways of working whilst also increasing their cultural awareness.”
She revealed that some Welsh learners had been invited to return to salons in Cyprus and Spain to work and one Spanish learner had now moved work in Wales following an exchange visit.
ISA Training, which has more than 700 learners and 550 employers on its books, specialises in work-based learning, delivering government funded programmes in Hairdressing, Barbering and Beauty in Wales and England.