The Journey of an Industry in Lockdown

LCC UHI’s Hair and Beauty course leader Elspeth Robertson shares how COVID-19 has impacted the industry and her students.


LCC UHI’s Hair and Beauty course leader Elspeth Robertson shares how COVID-19 has impacted the industry and her students.

The coronavirus pandemic continues to significantly affect the hair and beauty industry, with many struggling with the changes that have impacted on how businesses and training courses are run and delivered.

What a rollercoaster of a year it has been since March 2020, when we were catapulted into the unknown world of COVID-19. As we shut our college doors and industry closed theirs, we wondered if we would ever regain any normality as we had known it.

Online learning began and we became accustomed to battling with internet connections and the “can you hear me” “can you see me”? Our students adapted well and continued their theory delivery online as well as joining the many industry videos that were springing up with the latest trends for them to practice on their model heads.

Industry came together, and a fantastic hub of likeminded individuals were catapulted together, and we realised the power of online communication. Only one ‘small’ problem “how do you do this?” Online skills needed to be learnt! Remote friendships were formed, and I was frequently creating small groups and connecting those that I felt could support each other.

As industry came closer to reopening their doors after the first lockdown the guidelines were presented as to how this was to be done. Business gurus delivered numerous online business workshops, this was our opportunity to relaunch and showcase our profession, as well as getting the recognition that we have been striving for so long to gain.

What has come through very strongly throughout both lockdowns were that the beauty industry has been very much missed. Many social media posts highlighted this and even our first minister referred to it during one of her daily briefings.

In preparation to re-opening, we debated as to what the changes have been in comparison to how we had previously operated! We realised that there were some aspects of change within our industry, but the cleaning, sterilising, and disinfecting are already very much part of our day-to-day salon life. During training the first lesson our students learn is the importance and relevance of developing hygienic practices, this is part of their basic training.

The major changes and struggles that we have encountered are the added PPE, especially the masks and visors, and the social distancing.  We are exceedingly sociable individuals who work very closely with our customers, so the “keep your distance”, “don’t stay close for any longer than required” and “one client at a time” has been very alien to us. In respect to teaching this has been difficult, generally we are visual learners who do this through observing and applying. Our practical classes have been challenging at times as we also follow the strict processes outlined by government and it has been a team effort to make sure we are working together to always adhere to these.

When we entered our latest lockdown there was a feeling of control and less panic. Our Industry, as fashions do, reinvents and is proactive in coming up with creative solutions to help enable our businesses to stay afloat! Such as online shops and consultations. Within our delivery we have a strong emphasis on business and follow industry news and trends to enable out students to be fully prepared for self-employment.

Going forward there are many positives for our industry. Gaining recognition that we are a key part of people’s lives has been one of them. The latest available figures (2018) show that the hair and beauty industry generated over £8 billion in turnover for the UK economy.

It has also been acknowledged that we are ‘keeping our high streets alive’. After 2 years of lobbying parliament, our industry has its own grouping and will now come under ‘Personal Care’ – not ‘lumped’ in with hospitality or retail.

At Lews Castle College UHI we have trained many students all of whom we are incredibly proud of their achievements and many of now have successful businesses.

Our industry is an amazing profession to be part of and filled with so many fantastic career opportunities. You can hear from some of our current students and experiences on our website.

If you would like to join one of our courses and find out more about our specific delivery model at Lews Castle College UHI please get in touch –  

Applications are now open for 2021/22!