Courtesy of The Raithwaite Estate Spa, N Yorks

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By Tara Moore, Head of Spa Operations – Galgorm Spa & Golf Resort and Sarah Johnson, Head of Spa – Rudding Park 


What I have found over the years is that each time it comes around our recruitment drive, the standard in applicants had dropped and within all elements, be it interview skills, appearance as well as technical ability. We (Galgorm Spa & Golf Resort) as a company began to ask ourselves, ‘How do we attract highly skilled and motivated therapists who not only understand a spa environment but also the benefits of regular treatments for both the body and mind?’

The idea of Galgorm’s Spa Academy was born!  Putting it into process was a long one however, as we needed to be sure this would work for us. Also, which awarding body would suit our needs. Which individual would head this up and as well as how we’d secure, strong apprentice team members who really wanted a career in spa therapy. 

Having overcome these initial questions, we have been running the Galgorm Academy for the last couple of years and unquestionably what we have found is, when you invest in people, when you let them truly understand the company that they are working for. When you take the time to train them within other departments within the same spa environment and show them that there can be a long, varied and satisfying career in spa. That’s when you get the best from them.  

We understand that these apprentices are the future and who will, we hope, continue a dedicated journey with our resort. Therefore, we offer benefits such as continued training, one to one meetings with line managers regularly, constructive appraisals, kindly support in order to blend into the existing team once qualified. We give the ultimate in a feeling of belonging, right from the start of their journey, which we believe is key.

If the industry continues to not dedicate the time and effort into apprenticeships on a sizeable scale, I do fear we will not have expertly trained therapists to work in our spas. In my opinion, the standard is simply not there anymore. On occasions, when college trained therapists arrive for an interview and a trade test, they can barely carry out a basic massage! How is this possible? Surely these individuals attend college, with an expectation of becoming fully trained and ready to walk into a job. All too often, this is sadly not the case and having to sit with someone and inform them that they are not at the standard we require, is a very difficult thing to do and unfortunately this is now an all too regular scenario, from my experience. Furthermore, we need to address how the study of Beauty Therapy, is presented to pupils in schools. As far as I can tell, it is still presented as an option for those that are not particularly academic! I counter this by asking, ‘Have they completed an Anatomy & Physiology exam?’ I have and its hard! 

Let’s focus on our young people, let’s show them what their future could be. Let’s be actively involved with colleges and schools in order to offer support for their pupils. Let’s as an industry, be transparent with any new recruits, so that they understand an employer’s expectations of them and hat they understand the quality of work which must be produced. The hours of study, combined with constant practice, ensures their client’s experience of a treatment at their hands, is safe, enjoyable and beneficial.  Aspects of the spa industry are moving towards this and I feel now more than ever, that the benefits of our industry is at the forefront of the conversation, due to a focus on mental health and wellbeing. The general public want to look after themselves, so let us provide the quality of future therapists, so that we can deliver this! 

Sarah Johnson

Apprenticeships offer an angle on development that differs from learning via traditional educational settings alone, creating a platform for a well-rounded and individualised programme to provide an insight into the spa industry as a whole, as a real employee, doing a real job, gaining a real qualification. 

The industry is teaming with highly skilled and nurturing leaders offering learning opportunities, and for an experiential learner, apprenticeships tighten the gaps between theory and practice. From personal experience, guiding an apprentice through their journey is wholly rewarding for both learner and employer and the pace of development is remarkable. 

The key opportunity of a work-based qualification is the opportunity to expand interpersonal skills through daily interaction with guests, such as empathy, confidence and patience, alongside exposure to teamwork and practical departments within spa such as hands on treatments, reception, spa operations, food and beverage. Attendance on work-based training such as First Pool responder and sales with product houses, further enhance that growth. Apprenticeships really allow for diversity, and after two years working with us our apprentices are skilled enough to carry out their roles independently, in any area of the spa and both retention and engagement levels are consistently high. Apprentices go on to become highly valuable team members, and we are always excited to meet anyone thinking of completing an apprenticeship, to see how we can best support encouraging this amazing talent into the Spa and Wellbeing industry, where we then commit to provide ongoing development opportunities.

Freya who started her apprenticeship with us in 2017 as a level 2 Beauty Therapist, then worked as a part-time therapist whilst studying towards her level 3. Freya then spent a year as a Spa Receptionist and is now delighted to head up our 5 new learners as Team Leader.

“Working as part of a supportive team throughout my apprenticeship gave me the confidence to try anything new. I’ve built many friendships and the opportunities offered to me mean that my development has continued beyond the course ending. I am very excited to help our new apprentices on their journey, and I feel very proud.”

Regardless of the industry we devote our careers to, learning opportunities are around us everywhere and enrichment forms many shapes and sizes, sometimes with life simply offering us a daily lesson. However, as our professional selves, should we actively go looking for such opportunities? Absolutely – anything we can do to support our own personal growth offers empowerment and fulfilment, often leading to newfound self-esteem to take the next step towards our desired aspirations. 

There has never been a more fitting time than during this current climate to upskill and embrace the changes that have been both forced upon us to date and that will; I suspect, continue to surprise us as we emerge from the pandemic. Sometimes, even if we do not understand those aspirations in the moment, exploring new avenues and having the motivation to seek learning opportunities should be ever evolving. Creating new networks, working with a mentor, encouraging others to provide meaningful feedback and receiving coaching, or perhaps taking on more challenging responsibilities in our current roles are all valuable ways we can enhance our development. 

We need to enable ourselves to step outside of our comfort zone, be adaptable, build resilience, and have the confidence to push forwards to be successful in our search for academic, personal or professional growth opportunities.



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Monday, 19 April 2021

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