Sarah Cassidy on a not-so-pretty dispute over the revision of an NVQ.
Non-surgical facelifts and nail extensions are causing uproar in the usually tranquil world of beauty therapy.
Hundreds of lecturers and therapists are outraged at the review of the beauty industry's vocational qualification, which they claim has been unduly influenced by manufacturers.
Although the new curriculum has yet to be accredited, manufacturers of non-surgical facelift machines have already targeted colleges telling them to buy equipment now or risk being unable to deliver the NVQ.
However, lecturers and therapists argue that the facelifts and nail extensions are irrelevant to many salons. They are also concerned at the number of product manufacturers represented on the Beauty Industry Authority which drew up the syllabus.
Wallace Sharps, director of the Vocational Training Charitable Trust which awards beauty NVQs, says manufacturers should not be involved in setting standards. "In my time we kept absolutely clear of manufacturers because we never wanted to be held hostage to their interests. This body has come up with a ludicrous set of proposals coming from people with little knowledge of the industry."
Clare Burgess, head of beauty at Farnborough College of Technology, Hampshire, believes the changes have been bulldozed through.
She said: "They are trying to make us Jacks of all trades and master of none. I've spent pound;2,000 on new machines already. In the past we would teach the general principles and students would learn how to use specific machines once they were working in a salon. If these techniques go out of fashion our new equipment could be obsolete when the curriculum is reviewed again in three years time."
Lorraine Winslade, a Barnfield College lecturer, is one of several BIA members who opposed the inclusion of Micro Current, the non-surgical facelift, on the syllabus.
She said: "I have constantly raised my concerns that the new syllabus will be inaccurate, inappropriate and impossible to implement. Micro Current is a brand and we should not teach brands. Our concerns were constantly over-ruled by the voice of industry."
Therapist Kate Meads, beauty manager of Nirvana Spa in Wokingham, Berkshire, has protested to the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority which accredits the syllabus. She said: "The BIA's bias is sadly all too evident. Non-surgical face lifts and nail extensions now form a large part of the curriculum - areas which as an employer I do not feel should take priority over the basics.
"These are by no means the staple treatment of all salons and in many businesses are irrelevant."
But the BIA's chairman Gill Morris, a director of Sterex Electrolysis International, said although the authority devised the skeleton syllabus, it was working parties of therapists that put flesh on its bones.
She said: "The NVQ has to make people employable and reflect trends in the industry. We are lucky to have BIA members from the largest beauty employers in the country to give feedback on what today's customer wants."