fROM dustmen to Dior, Salisbury College is establishing firm foundations in bespoke training. Martin Whittaker reports
AT its swish new training academy in Knightsbridge, cosmetics giant Parfums Christian Dior likes to do everything in style.
Catering is by well-known chef and restaurateur Albert Roux, uniforms for Dior beauty consultants are created by British designer John Galliano ... and training is by Salisbury College of Further Education.
The college, which once devised a training course for dustmen, has teamed up with Dior to run a national vocational qualification in beauty and management.
It is providing tailor-made courses at the Dior Training Academy, and at 25 stores throughout the UK.
Parfums Christian Dior training manager Lee Etheridge said he was approached by the college initially. "They are one of the key players in the country for delivering training off-site," he said. "I wanted the training to be delivered in our environment. I needed a college that could give me national support. " Jane Holmes, who is heading the training project for Salisbury College said: "We contacted all the big cosmetics houses and explained what we could provide, and Dior came back to us.
"We looked at the training they provide for their beauty consultants, and we identified four units of the beauty therapy NVQ that we could map into the programme."
The resulting training programme - NVQ level 2 in beauty and levels 3 and 4 in supervisory management - is a first for the industry.
Parfums Christian Dior has begun putting its beauty consultants through the NVQ in response to increasing competitiveness.
"Retailing has changed," says Dior's Lee Etheridge. "The hours are longer, there's a lot more competition and the customer has a lot more choice.
"Really the customer's buying is based not just on the product but on the service level she receives from the consultant. Now when a consultant joins us w are looking for personal skills and experience of being in an industry which is service-driven.
"They don't necessarily need the knowledge of beauty skills and make-up because we can give them that. What we need is a person who can interact with the customer, who likes working with people and has communication skills.
"In the past there's been a sense with people applying to the industry that 'I couldn't possibly sell cosmetics because I've never done anything with cosmetics'.
"Those are the barriers we're now breaking down and we are taking more people from outside the industry."
New recruits come to the training academy, which opened last month, and receive four days of induction training there.
This includes learning about the history of Parfums Christian Dior, product knowledge and sales skills.
Then they go to high street stores such as Selfridges or House of Fraser for on-the-job training. Three times a year there are extra development programmes on presentation style and new products.
The new NVQ training has started with account managers - those who run the counters in stores. The first 25 will complete the NVQ level 2 in beauty and in June move on to NVQ level 3 in management.
But will the new NVQ be a good foundation for Dior's beauty consultants, or is it merely a cosmetic exercise?
Lee Etheridge says it will offer more career progression and at the same time help Dior keep high-quality staff.
"Having been a consultant myself, I wanted to develop our consultants in the roles they're doing and give them a broader knowledge of beauty and management.
"This is not just from a Christian Dior perspective but from a nationally-recognised qualification perspective so that they have credibility.
"If you work for Christian Dior, you have Christian Dior's training. However, you also have the opportunity to take that to the next level and obtain something for yourself."