A severe skills shortage of work-ready, properly trained spa therapists was the catalyst that prompted the Eden Hotel Collection, winners of the 2019 Emerging Talent Award to create the UK’s first Spa Academy.
Finding the right talent
The Eden Hotel Collection was formed in 2008 with a single property, rising to 9 properties today and is a collection of privately owned, unique luxury hotels.
Lisa Redding, Head of HR commented, ‘Spas form an integral part of the Collection’s offering, with an investment of £8m in two new spas over the past few years. The challenge wasn’t ‘if we build it, they will come’, rather that guests were looking for an outstanding quality spa experience yet finding skilled therapists was a huge challenge’.
Growth of Spas in the UK
This is partly due to the rise in the number of spas in the UK from just 50 in 2006, to over 900 hundred today, and partly to the level of training some colleges were delivering which fell far below the standard required by Eden Hotels.
The collection, working alongside IBHA (a fast growing beauty training company), took the bold step to create their own Academy, driving young people into the business via an apprenticeship scheme with a difference.
The EHC Spa Academy launched in 2018 with a total of 100+ applicants for apprentice places – indicating the desire for therapists to learn in the workplace rather than in the standard college route. EHC advertised and filled all of the roles within 6 weeks. In Year two, the programme has extended to offer both a Level 2 and Level 3 programme.
Lisa continued, ‘We gained sponsorship from ESPA and Orly who committed to providing products for use at the academy so that our apprentices were trained from the outset with premium products, along with an agreement to train IBHA tutors in ESPA protocols to ensure consistent messaging. This is where the most notable difference in the apprentices experience was gained, great product knowledge enabling a greater quality of treatment and after-care for our guests.
Part of the Team
EHC want apprentices to understand that they are part of something much bigger than the training that they receive. The focus is on offering an apprenticeship ‘programme’, where apprentices meet regularly to ensure that they have support, not just at a hotel level but also amongst their peer group, giving each of them a real sense of belonging.
Historically the highest revenue-generating treatments within our spa’s are massage led which requires a full Level 3 qualification. The Academy’s approach allows apprentices to complete the massage module at the beginning of the course.
This means that the apprentices can deliver the highest value treatments within 3 months – unlocking an additional revenue potential of 100k per year per therapist. This has had a significant impact in increasing therapist utilisation and driving up Spa revenue as a whole from by £600K per annum, with an increase in spa room occupancy of 20%.
Enhanced Benefits Packages
EHC are strong believers in treating people equally and in fair pay. Apprentices at entry-level join on National Minimum Wage rate rather than the lower level apprentice rate.
The Academy also offers an enhanced benefits package that includes additional annual leave, further discounted accommodation rates, extended spa discount rates and commissions/weekend enhancements.
Changing the Perception
The focus and PR that the Spa Academy has received has helped to educate the wider team about the importance of apprenticeships, with full buy-in from the top down.
Each of the spa apprentices is now training to become mentors for the next intake of students.
Lisa Top 3 tips
We asked Lisa if she had any words of advice for organisations considering setting up in-house apprenticeship programmes.
- Think about how you can make your programme different, work with suppliers and sponsors, be innovative and create a programme with a difference. It’s a crowded marketplace and businesses need to stand out to attract the best talent.
- Prepare management teams to support apprentices on-boarding and throughout their first few weeks. Apprentices bring a different set of needs and can require additional support, certainly at the offset. It’s our responsibility to help educate them and nurture them to become some of our best employee’s.
- Engage with parents or guardians to help them understand the need to have their children ‘work ready’. This can be challenging for both parents and apprentices and so create information that clearly outlines what apprentices can expect and what parents can do to support them, as well as building a relationship with their parents. This can prove invaluable during the initial settling period