We talk to Hair & Barber Council CEO/Registrar Keith Conniford

The Hair and Barber Council is a not for profit Statutory Authority, set up under the Hairdressers (Registration) Act of 1964. It is the sole industry organisation that has a mandate from Government to maintain, develop and protect the Register of hairdressers and barbers.

We had the recent opportunity to sit down with the council’s CEO/Registrar Keith Conniford, who replaced Sally Styles as the head of the organisation in June 2016.

So Keith, tell us a bit more about your background…
I have been in the hairdressing industry all of my life, bought my first salon and barbershop when I was 19.5 years of age. Subsequently worked in manufacturing and teaching/training. Went back into business for 23 years, which was then subsequently sold in 2010. The business when sold employed 268 people in three distinct divisions; a 20 salon/store group all franchised over a period of time, a Government Training Contract worth £2.3M, and a large eCommerce business selling anything hair and beauty related on the internet. The name of this company was ‘Lookfantastic’. I also sat on the ‘Learning and Skills Council’, which funded post 16 education during their tenure and was a member of ‘The Investors in People’ recognition panel amongst other things.

What do you think you have brought to the role?
A lifetime of skill and knowledge in just about every sector of the industry.

What changes have you implemented since your appointment?
Many changes to include, but not exhaustive; Commencing the rationalisation of the Council/Committee, the setting up of a Strategic Executive Committee, the launching of The Hair and Barber Councils ‘Key Objectives and Policy Positions’, the re writing of the Councils Governance Documents (formally called Standing Orders), the commissioning of our recently launched industry, stakeholders and consumer data research report, the launch in July 2017 of the new “Associate membership’, the continued growth and interest of MPs in our APPG (All Party Parliamentary Group), and the future implementation of the new ‘Junior Council’.

What are the council’s key objectives?
There are four key objectives.

1.) To introduce mandatory licencing/regulation of all hairdressers and barbers and lobby for the amendment of the Act of Parliament.

2.) To raise awareness of the Hair Council with politicians and the industry.

3.) To champion hairdressers and barbers as professionals.

4.) To be the leading voice of the industry.

Why do you think it’s so important for the industry to be regulated?
For the hair, barber and beauty industries to ever receive the professional status they need and deserve, we have to make ourselves more recognisably professional to the public. With regulation, skill levels will increase, public perception of the industries will improve dramatically, better prices can be charged, higher wages can be paid, and public confidence, trust and belief in these skills/trades/crafts for their children leaving school, will greatly improve our career appeal and future recruitment possibilities. In addition, with the ‘upping’ of training, qualifications and looking after the entrants coming into our industries, staff retention will improve hugely.

How does someone qualify for state registration?
Based upon an entry qualification and industry experience level. These current levels and details can be obtained from The Hair and Barber Council by contacting; registrar@haircouncil.org.uk

What are the benefits to the hair professional of becoming state registered?
Pride, status, marketing yourself as a true professional, giving your customers confidence in that you know what you are doing, encouraging people to enter and remain in the profession, maintaining high levels of health and safety and hygiene, belonging to a much recognised, admired and highly professional industry!

How much does it cost to be state registered?
£42 per person per annum.

There are some in the industry that oppose mandatory state registration, arguing they don’t need a piece of paper to prove they can cut and style hair. They also say that hair professionals that offer a poor level of service will not last long as consumers will simply go elsewhere. How would you respond to these arguments?
These arguments can easily be perceived as devaluing the status of the industry and in my opinion are totally out of date for 2017. To be a true ‘professional’ and trade as such, surely you must be properly trained and qualified. State registration/regulation will ensure this happens. Doesn’t the consumer have the right to know that they are in a safe pair of hands, that the person doing their hair/treatment has been trained and is qualified to use chemicals, sharp instruments etc. and that health and safety and hygiene standards are maintained?

Some believe the UK government are reluctant to bring in mandatory state registration because they feel it will make it much harder for individuals to open salon and barbershops and fill empty shops on the high street. How would you counter this argument?
The UK Government for years has not taken our industry seriously enough, partly due to our own representation. Their perception of our industry is the same as the publics at large, i.e. low paid, low skilled etc., which is SO very wrong. They also say that, Health and Safety is in place should any incidents occur, well how about ensuring incidents don’t occur by making the industry regulated, maintained and policed to start with. So, they fuel the ‘default’ career choice that, if you can’t do anything else, be a hairdresser/barber! This position is however, gradually changing, and with the APPG group that we set up for the Hair and Barber industry, there are now far more MPS actively supporting our cause and seeing the need for this to change. The results of our recently commissioned data survey to industry, stakeholders and the consumer, overwhelmingly supports the need for the UK Government to at last take this seriously and ensure our industries are properly regulated in the future. In addition, following the launch of these data survey results, I was interviewed on BBC Breakfast, to discuss the industry from the consumers’ perspective. The feedback from the public following this interview was one of complete shock and amazement that our industries weren’t regulated at all, they all assumed that we were! For a copy of this report or a link to the interview download, please contact; registrar@haircouncil.gov.uk

We have several hairdressing bodies that do a good job, such as the NHF and The Fellowship for British Hairdressing. Why do we need another organisation?
The Hair and Barber Council is not ‘another’ organisation, it has been around since 1964. The NHF represents salon owners and The Fellowship the creative arm of our industry. Both do great work for the industry, but The Hair and Barber Council is the only industry body that has the mandate from Government to maintain and grow the current voluntary register. In addition to which we are the only industry body that can truly be the voice of the industry as we represent every faction of the industry, both with our main membership for hairdressers and barbers and more recently with the launch of our ‘Associate membership’, which can include anyone that works in, with, or is intrinsically linked or is part of the hair and/or barber industry. The Hair and Barber Council represents you/the industry…. not us.

Keith Conniford on BBC Breakfast