By AHC CEO, Sandy Chong

Every week I hear or see something inspirational, uplifting and creative about the Barber Industry.  Business success stories, competition winners and awards and more.

And every week I hear from someone who wants to vent on what is wrong with the industry, and what the AHC is doing about it. Stories of under paying staff, unpaid superannuation, non-qualified operators and how hard it is to get good barbers.

We all choose to be in  business to make a difference, stand out, be successful, live a better life. The better the industry does, the better business is….so what’s stopping us from belonging to the best industry? Let’s break it all down.


The barber industry had 105 apprentices enrolled in 2016 and 1,104 apprentices enrolled in 2017. The industry cannot report on 2018 enrolments as final figures are not submitted. Completions can’t be calculated at this time as the Barber Apprenticeship is 3 years. It’s great to see so much positive growth in this industry. 

 The completion rate for apprenticeships in the hairdressing industry is down to only 28.1%. Why is this? Few hairdressing salons understand their obligations to work alongside their training college to develop a training plan that works for the salon as well as the apprentice. Few salons are truly investing in the success of their apprentice and the future of their business. Many hairdressing apprentices are used to just clean with little training. 

I speak to many barbers who have their teams training and cutting as soon as they are employed. Higher involvement will always give a higher commitment and it’s great to see many barbers embracing this.


Just five years ago there were more than 170 RTOs delivering hairdressing qualifications. Today there are 98. The barber qualification only became available in 2016.  Choose a college that fits in with your training values and needs. Negotiate this with your college and your apprentice. Don’t agree with signing off an apprentice that has not completed their college work and assessments. Choose a college that engages with YOU and with the industry. By this, I mean an RTO that employs teachers who are committed to being current with their skills and knowledge. Teachers must be present at industry training and events, not just learning off Facebook and YouTube! Buying an industry magazine does not equate to teacher currency, skills or ability!


Don’t poach barbers from a shop that has invested time, money and energy in building up their barber’s skills and clientele. Create an environment and culture where all employees are paid correctly and completely by the books! That means no cash or under the table handshake deals. Too many employers are now operating sham ‘contractor’ arrangements to get out of paying entitlements. Change is permanent and staff needs are different to years ago. Yes, they want to be paid well; they also want flexibility, security, training and respect. When was the last time you checked in with your barbers as to what their needs are? Their goals? What drives them to want to work with you?  


I’m often questioned if the ATO actually do anything about complaints of not being paid superannuation. Here’s the latest report from the ATO for the last 12 months in the hairdressing/barber industry. There would be many more cases not brought to the attention of the ATO.


With 111,000 ABNs registered for the Hair AND Beauty AND the Barber industry, 54,640 ABNs are flagged by the ATO as contributing to the black economy. Our industry is in the top three trades as non-compliant from the ATO and the Fair Work Ombudsman. How’s that for an industry reputation? Out of 111,000 registered ABNs, only 12,500 are actually shopfronts in hair, barber and beauty. 

I received a phone call from a mum recently, concerned about her son who was paid $11 for one day’s work as a ‘contractor’. I only needed to ask a couple of questions to establish that he is actually an employee. And we wonder why staff leave or set up at home so they can control their own hours and income? Our industries are being audited and will continue to be over the next few years based on our non-compliant reputation.

To read more head to Issue 16 of The Cutthroat Journal Flip book