For our latest Network Insider interview we caught up with Margaret O’ Rourke Doherty, the Network Manager of Image Skillnet to find out how the network supports the hair, beauty and related industries in Ireland.
Name of Network: Image Skillnet
Number of members: 430 active members
Sector(s) covered: Hair and Beauty
Year established: June 2017
Please describe what your network does and how it came about?
Image Skillnet is a dedicated national learning network that supports workforce development within the Irish hair and beauty industry. The network was established after in-depth research was carried out into the needs and requirements of this vibrant, dynamic and creative industry. A clear need for an enterprise-led network was established to drive learning and development within the sector, and companies were very eager to support the network. Since 2017, Image Skillnet has seen significant year-on-year growth in the number of member companies joining. In 2019, 430 member companies and their staff took part in upskilling programmes with Image Skillnet. In addition, we engage with a total of 1200 companies within this industry, providing key information and support on various items such as newly developed upskilling initiatives, industry news and industry events.
Can you outline one key way your network impacted positively on the sector?
The hair and beauty industry is visible in every city, town and village across Ireland – yet the majority of industry training typically took place in Dublin. Image Skillnet is changing this and supporting our members in various regions by bringing clusters of like-minded businesses together to access training nationally.
This clustering of professionals has allowed members to access the highest quality training and guest artists at a subsided rate, in their locality – and in a manner that suits their enterprise. This means that our members receive the education they require, delivered in a way that works for the business and team, while also reducing the costs. This is not just in terms of the trainer costs – but by removing costs such as venue hire, and staff travel expenses. The removal of these barriers has allowed many of our members to engage in training that they would not otherwise attend.
Over the last two years, Image Skillnet has built up a positive relationship with our members. Now, we are often the first point of contact when a hair or beauty organisation has a training need. We pride ourselves on being workforce development partners with all of our members. This has been demonstrated in the high number of members engaging in multiple training events throughout the year.
What new trends do you see emerging within your industry?
With the rapid advancements in social media, salon clients are more knowledgeable than ever. They have clear expectations on what they want to receive from a salon treatment and experience. With clients taking much of their inspiration from platforms such as Instagram, our members are required to keep up with the latest trends.
However, as the industry is evolving at such a fast rate, the importance of personalisation will play an even bigger part of the salon experience. This aspect was always extremely important – but will now become one of the defining features of the industry. This will include in-depth advanced consultations, the personalisation of individual techniques, treatments and product formulations, the management and personalisation of the client journey from start to finish, and the investment into client/professional relationships. This presents skills challenges for our businesses.
What skills do you think are most important for a small business owner/manager?
The hair and beauty industry are one of the most entrepreneurial industries in Ireland. As an industry, the core skills and technical knowledge enables professionals to deliver the best quality and service to their clientele. However, for owners/managers, the development of management and leadership skills are often not fully developed and are often reactionary to issues. The difference between salons making a profit is down to management skills, business knowledge and leadership skills.
It is one of the upskilling areas that salon owner know they need but are often reluctant to invest in. However, a solid understanding of the business while developing management and leadership skills can have the single biggest positive impact on any business. In 2020, we will support the industry with regional business hubs focusing on developing leadership and management skills.
Do you have any advice for a business that is considering joining a Skillnet Network?
There are so many benefits that come with being part of a Skillnet Network. These include; the access to upskilling, tailored programmes, flexibility, local delivery, clustering, the ability of a network to respond to your business needs in a responsive and timely manner, and more. These can all be extremely valuable, and the availability of the internal Skillnet team who can support and guide you and your business through the process. Additionally, the peer to peer learning and the development of these relationships can help to develop positive and lasting support systems.
Our advice is to join a network that most suits your industry, region and enterprise. Also, there is no reason that your business can’t be part of multiple networks, many networks offer different programmes, by engaging with multiple networks you can meet your organisation’s needs. Finally, if you work in the hair and beauty industry and are unsure of how to proceed contact Image Skillnet. We are always happy to try and find you a solution for your workforce development requirements.
Image Skillnet is co-funded by Skillnet Ireland and member companies. Skillnet Ireland is funded from the National Training Fund through the Department of Education and Skills.