The Dangers of This Process, Part Two

In my last post about the Targeted Review of Qualifications (TRoQ), I wrote about the dangers of this process.

In this post, I’ll add more about some of the dangers this process can present to the future of our industry.

The Dangers of This Process, Part Two

Competence versus Confidence

Another part of the “problem”, as perceived from the faction I mentioned in my previous post, is that graduates are not experts by the time they graduate.

Nor should they be experts.  Many other graduates emerge from their programme in many other subject areas the same way.  As one of our colleagues from Elite stated, “There is a big difference between competence and confidence.”

(Just to explain for people who don’t quite understand the weight of that sentence.  Competence means you are able to carry out the treatment or show you know about a subject by doing it or answering a question correctly.  Confidence is your ability to perform the treatment well without a second thought or answer a question without any hesitation.)

As teachers, we can determine competence, but confidence is more difficult.  Some students will graduate both competent and confident in their abilities.  Some students may graduate competent in their abilities and take ten years of working before they are fully confident.  Some students may graduate competent and never feel entirely confident.

In short: confidence cannot be taught.  It varies from person to person.

Some of the vocal minority have suggested tacking on “capstone” units, as used in the hairdressing industry, to the qualifications to boost confidence.  This would mean, after a person finishes beauty therapy training, they may need to complete an additional few years working in a clinic to complete their diploma.

In the beauty therapy industry, we have a higher-than-normal turnover rate.  This seems to sit around 18% or so, which is slightly higher than the overall average of around 17% throughout all industries.

From a funding standpoint – and funding is one area I deal with here at NaSA – implementing “capstone” units could heavily damage funding for beauty therapy education in total.

Tertiary education funding at our level is linked now to three main things:

  • How many students complete their studies (not withdraw), called retention;
  • How many students finish each component of the programme, called course completion;
  • How many students finish the programme and gain the qualification, called qualification completion.

Adding a few years onto gaining a beauty therapy qualification will see:

  • The number of students withdrawing increasing; and
  • The number of students completing all components, especially the “capstone” units, dropping;
  • The number of students gaining the qualification significantly diminishing.

I also predict that the turnover rate will affect the number of people gaining the qualification.

When outcomes drop below a certain threshold, we will see funding taken away from beauty therapy education providers, no matter if the system is apprenticeship-based or classroom-based.

Currently, once a student finishes his or her beauty therapy programme, he or she is qualified.  It is then up to industry or the clinic he or she works at to build that confidence in the way that the owner, manager, or senior therapist feels will best suit that particular therapist.

Under a “capstone” unit-based system, clinics may need to supply someone able to assess against these units, and the beauty therapist would need to meet certain criteria, whether or not those criteria suit the person him- or herself.

To my knowledge, many other countries do not engage in a “capstone” unit-based system once a beauty therapist has finished his or her initial training programme.

Then there is the danger of miscalculation.  What if the graduate is confident but lacks the vision to see that?  What if the person assessing the graduate has such a high standard that no graduate can ever be confident in his or her eyes?

Confidence can be a very subjective thing.

International Qualifications versus Benchmarking the New Zealand Diploma in Beauty Therapy Against Other Countries’ Qualifications

When I moved to New Zealand way back in 1996, I could have submitted my US degree to NZQA to have it matched up to New Zealand standards.  The problem with this was that I had heard horror stories from fellow ex-pats (not only American) about how NZQA took too long to make a ruling and usually that ruling stated the degree was not to a New Zealand standard and part of it needed to be retaken at a New Zealand university.  This is amazing for American degrees as American degrees tend to be 4 to 5 years in duration and deal with not only general university-level education but also very in-depth education in your major and minor subject focuses.

This didn’t really hit home until my friend Mary, also an American, told me her story after I told her I was thinking of getting my US degree “recognised” by NZQA.

She said that she had submitted her degree for analysis 8 years earlier – 8 years! – and after a lot of money, stress, tears, and heartbreak, she heard back (finally) that NZQA would not recognise her 5 year American degree.  If she wanted to enter the field she specialised in in New Zealand, she would have to retake some or all of her degree, despite having a valid practicing license and experience from her home state in the USA.

For her, her American degree and the NZQA process saw her lose tens of thousands of dollars (the degree being the most expensive part), several years of her life, her pride, and her dignity.  She couldn’t face spending at least 2 more years at university to get a New Zealand equivalent degree.

Disheartened and disenfranchised, Mary quit New Zealand and returned home.

Determined not to have NZQA interfering in my life any more than I needed, I opted to go to Massey University and complete a New Zealand degree.  Massey were very understanding and helpful, and, by 2002, after 2 years of part-time study, I had completed my New Zealand degree.

This is not a process I want any of my graduates to have to undergo if I can help it, especially in light of personal issues still arising and / or present in our Christchurch-based students post-quakes.

Approximately 10% of NaSA graduates go overseas.  They should have qualifications that are easily recognised and “truly transportable” as ITEC says. They shouldn’t have the hassle Mary and I, as well as many others, have had with our qualifications.

In July 2012, providers, the Hairdressing Industry Training Organisation (HITO), NZQA and industry had a preliminary meeting about the TRoQ and the future of New Zealand qualifications. I ended up having a quite heated argument with a member of the vocal minority and the NZQA representative about international qualifications.

The vocal person does not, to my knowledge, hold any international qualifications.  Nor does she even hold New Zealand beauty therapy qualifications, as far as I recall.  But she has been very vocal in wanting international qualifications out of New Zealand, as well as making her opinion quite clear that she wants providers out of beauty therapy education.

I responded that, with about 10% of our graduates going to work overseas, international qualifications were important.  This process, I countered, is not about my ego, or her ego, or anyone’s ego; it’s about making the best system for our industry.  The story I told you here about Mary and me was relayed again.  And while the NZQA representative had a smirk on her face, I passionately drove my point home that, having been through this myself, I am using my experiences to fight for the rights of my students and my graduates.  Isn’t that what this whole exercise is for?  For industry and students and graduates to get the best opportunities to achieve, succeed, and work, no matter where in the world they choose to work?

(The NZQA representative lost the smirk, by the way, as I pointed out that “must-fit-inside-the-box” bureaucracy like their organisation is so fond of is part of the problem.)

Erica Cummings, CEO of HITO, stepped in and explained that HITO was in the process of benchmarking New Zealand qualifications (currently National Certificates in Beauty Services) against other countries’ qualifications.  Only a handful of agreements exist between New Zealand and other countries, and while I personally admire Erica and HITO for undertaking such an ambitious project that will take quite a long time and a lot of resources to complete, and even more work to maintain, I can’t help but wonder again: “Why are we reinventing the wheel?”

International governing bodies, like ITEC and CIDESCO, are already well-established in many countries around the world.  ITEC has 44 countries listed on its Web site’s homepage, and CIDESCO has 34 countries listed in its education section.  These qualifications are an industry standard in countries and areas like the United Kingdom, Australia, most (if not all) of Europe, China, Japan, and the United States, and recognition of the brands (for lack of a better word) makes this an obvious choice of qualification for graduates who want to travel with their skills.

Beauty therapy in New Zealand started by teaching from syllabuses like ITEC’s and CIDESCO’s, and these international qualification systems are deeply embedded in not only our teaching programme but also teaching programmes throughout New Zealand and the world.

We need to give our students and our graduates the best chance of success not only in New Zealand but also around the globe.  Tourists and visitors coming to New Zealand should experience the same or better beauty therapy treatment in our country.  Employers overseas should find our graduates have the same or better beauty therapy skills than their home country’s graduates.  Our graduates need to be internationally competitive in an era of increasing global migration and connectivity.

Why are some trying to move New Zealand qualifications away from the increasing trend of moving towards each other?

Keeping the Level the Same versus Reducing the Level of Training

Beauty therapy training (to make someone a fully qualified beauty therapist) is pegged at levels 4 and 5 on the NZQF. It mostly sits at level 5.  Level 5 is equivalent to the first year of a Bachelor’s Degree.

In my 17 years in the industry, this has been the status quo.  I am sure it goes back further than that.

Again, the vocal minority want this “dumbed down” to levels 3 and 4.  To be honest, for some, this all relates to funding; they are only approved for funding to level 4, and they currently offer very little beauty therapy training but want to expand into it greatly, so why not drag the whole system down to that level to suit their needs?

Catherine Wouters, our Principal, and I had an in-depth conversation about levels.  She feels that the level of training is accurate and adequate.  Quite a few concepts in anatomy and physiology – her speciality – are quite comfortable at level 5 (and, she even reckons that some of it belongs at level 6).

In our meeting on 7 April 2013, education providers and industry identified that beauty therapy should stay at levels 4 and 5, with one or more post-graduate options sitting at levels 5 and 6.  These post-graduate options will be something I’ll talk about in my next post.

Back to levels:  The New Zealand Government has made it their mandate that more young people are qualified to level 4 or above.  The Tertiary Education Commission (TEC), responsible for subsidy funding, even approached us with the offer to extend our cap for the foreseeable future because the National School of Aesthetics does such a great job at meeting this mandate.

So why are we trying to “dumb down” qualifications the Government is praising us for?  Are we willing to sacrifice meeting the Government’s vision so one organisation (who currently offers little to no beauty therapy training) can try to take over training and mould it to their vision of what beauty therapy training should be?

As I keep asking, “Why are we reinventing the wheel?” Also: “If it isn’t broken, why are we trying to fix it?”

Issues like these are why your voice, as industry, students, graduates, employers, and so on, is very important throughout this process.

In my next post, I’ll talk about The Opportunities This Process Brings.

Scott Fack is the Director of Operations at the National School of Aesthetics. He remains one of the beauty therapy education industry’s leaders in compliance requirements and quality management systems. The information supplied in this blog entry is his point-of-view of the Targeted Review of Qualifications for beauty therapy.

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2 thoughts on “The Dangers of This Process, Part Two

  1. Very well said Scott and informative too, I and many other beauty therapists have worked very hard for our qualifications and we take great pride in our industry. I make it a priority to continue the learning process through post grad training in my speciality fields and I would be disappointed to have my qualifications “dumbed” down.

    1. Hi Terry! Thank you for your words of support. I discovered this weekend at Expo that this blog has made quite a strong impact industry-wide, and that’s great. I wanted to let everyone know, in plain English, what this whole process means to us as an industry. NZQA is very good at using confusing language, and I am one of the people with the skills to “translate” it to normal English.

      One thing I continue to see at all these industry gatherings is that the beauty therapy industry is full of very intelligent and passionate people who are extremely proud of their industry. And we should remain that way, stand up for what we believe in (like you say), and ensure the strong standards we have had and have in our industry remain in the future as well. New Zealand is one of the leaders in beauty therapy and beauty therapy education; we should fight hard to make sure it remains this way!

      If you have any questions about any of this, or if any of your colleagues or clinic owners or therapists have any questions, please feel free to contact me at the National School of Aesthetics, and I will be more than happy to help as best as I can. Scott 🙂

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