We are not currently offering a piercing apprenticship at Rogue. Please do not contact us to ask for one!
If you know anything about Rogue, you know we love a bit of data! Over the past 8 weeks, we have sent out a survey to over a hundred international piercers to fill out in order to gather data on the current state of piercing apprenticeships.
We all know that there are very few piercing apprenticeships being offered internationally – But why is a very big question! We don’t like to just give people a flat no, and we think its important that would-be apprentices know what they’re up against if they want a great start into the industry.
Of all the responses from the questionnaire, a huge proportion of piercers are active within the UK and USA. This means that any data collected will the skewed towards a more eurocentric response!
Most of the responses came from experienced piercers with close to, or over a decade of, professional experience. This means that the data comes from a place of knowledge.
This is where it gets interesting. Of the respondants, over 3/4 believe that there are not currently enough high-quality piercers offering apprenticeships to train the next generation. So… Why is that? The following questions were designed to ask why particular piercers, even those with over a decade of experience, do not take on an apprentice.
Despite a resounding cry for high-quality apprentices, with over 75% of responses saying that not enough apprentices are being trained, only 8.7% are currently looking to take one on!
Interestingly, 20% of the piercers who responded stated they would never take on an apprentice. The majority were planning on taking an apprentice sometime in the future – Within 5 years. This is really heartening to know! Even if the current climate is difficult, there is still hope for the future.
This is where it gets interesting. We asked why piercers weren’t taking on an apprentice, and the results were surprising! Very few simply didn’t fancy taking on an apprentice. Most were interested in taking on an apprentice in the future, however due to personal, experience, or financial reasons were unable to.
Some of the responses were:
- “There currently isn’t enough work for us to justify taking on another piercer – plus, training can be super exhausting.”
- “I hate 99% of people and couldnt imagine working with anyone.”
- “We only train piercers when we are looking for new staff and can offer a job at the end of the apprenticeship. I think there’s too many people willing to train up people and then they’re left with no career at the end of it.”
- “I don’t have enough of a consistent work load to be able to offer a full time position to someone once they have completed an apprenticeship. I could really use a second piercer for a few months of the year when it is the busy summer season but other than that my workload is really slow paced. I don’t think it would be fair of me to take on an apprentice for a few years then not have work for them to be able to support themselves at the end of it. It wouldn’t really be financially viable for me either.”
- “My Studio isn’t up to standard.”
These are all really valid reasons not to take on a piercer. As much as we stress researching your potential mentor and making sure they are experienced enough to teach you, its also really important to remember that piercers are only human. Piercing is a business. Taking on an apprentice is often a huge financial risk, and to do so ethically requires a lot of forethought and financial planning.
Employment and business structure is a huge reason why many piercers don’t take on an apprentice. Of over 100 piercers, almost half are employed by another person. This means that frequently the decision to take on an apprentice is out of their hands. Even if they wanted to take on an apprentice, their boss may choose not to for a number of reasons.
And again on the other hand, if a piercer is self-employed, they may struggle to finance an apprenticeship. Especially in the current economic climate, many self-employed folks are feeling the squeeze. They are not paid a set wage each month, rather are often paid a proportion of any turnover. Splitting that money with another person may not be financially viable. Even if an apprenticeship is unpaid, many apprentices will still cost the business money in one way or another.
Something that came up a lot in this questionnaire, and in further dialogue with indivudual piercers, is the concept of ‘The Blind Leading the Blind.’ Given the boom in piercing over the last few years, many people joined the industry in a short space of time. A huge proportion of would-be mentors are still in the infancy of their careers themselves, and are passing down their bad education or bad habits without even knowing it. In addition to this, younger piercers are less likely to have the experience and skill to teach the vital ‘unusual’ piercings, like genital work, large-gauge piercings, and surface piercings. This means that over time, these skills can very easily be lost and die out. We are already experiencing this as it is!
Something to consider as well is the Dunning-Kruger effect. In our experience, younger piercers are more likely to consider themselves ready to teach well before they are ready because they simply don’t know what they don’t know yet. This is why we recommend considering both the portfolio of your potential mentor and the years they have served. A healthy mix of both is ideal. The majority of responses to the questionnaires recommended a mentor should have at least 4-10 years of experience before taking on an apprentice. Here at Rogue, we sit in the decade club where we believe that a solid 10 years of piercing experience makes for a much better educator. Mature piercers will often have travelled and attended conferences http://safepiercing.org, and have excellent links within the industry. It’s often not what you know, but who you know that can allow your career to take off!
Final Thoughts from the Piercers
Here we choose to share some of the thoughts of the piercers interviewed, in order for you to see exactly what they are thinking when they think of apprenticeships.
- “I feel it (whether they take an apprentice on or not) depends how the piercing apprenticeship is approached. I had never considered teaching someone. My soon-to-be apprentice has been working with us for 2 years as Saturday help & Receptionist. She has always wanted to learn and we became friends over the past couple of years and so I started to consider helping her. She will continue to work in the studio to earn a wage. To start with I will be training her out of hours meaning she won’t be paid but neither will I. It’s all about both putting in the time. Once she starts piercing, however long that may take I would offer her a portion of the total. We will then continue on from there to ensure that she is well looked after and gets every bit of experience she needs of the next few years.”
- “I wish more reputable piercers were taking apprentices. We are lacking a quantity of reputable piercers, my studio is currently looking for one but we haven’t found anyone just yet who fits our criteria but quite a lot of half trained people who either had poor, unfinished apprenticeships or they did a piercing course.”
- “Safe and ethical apprenticeships are key, and not every apprenticeship is effective or healthy. After meeting an apprentice at another studio near me, it feels important to bring up that there are apprentices in some studios that have fulfilled their training requirements in unpaid positions, who are manipulated into thinking that they still must work for free. Apprenticeships are the most effective way for someone to learn our trade and it is unfortunate that some abusers use the dynamic of piercing apprenticeship to lure and trap their victims.”
- The biggest issue I see here in our industry is that being a good piercer does not make you a good teacher or mentor (same with business ownership). All too often I see these roles interchangeable – where they are each in their own right, different skillsets. I’m not about gatekeepers whatsoever and am a firm believer in paying it forward, it does however need to make good financial sense for a studio but also the potential mentor needs to have good training skills (as well of course as being a good piercer). The other issue I see a lot of is students teaching students – basic fundamentals that mentors don’t have down, yet are passing these gaps in knowledge down to the newer generation.”
Piercing Apprenticeship Conclusions
That’s a tonne of data and industry information! We genuinely believe that there is hope for the piercing industry if we just pull ourselves together and take the jump. Taking on an apprentice is often terrifying, both for the mentor and learner. It’s a big commitment for everyone involved, and there is no way to predict the outcome. A mentorship is based on mutual trust, respect, and often deep friendship. Having an apprentice can feel sometimes like adopting a child! Not only does your mentor shape your piercing skills, but they will shape your attitude and relationship with the industry. Your mentors reputation can often follow you for the lifetime of your career.
So, what do piercers want would-be apprentices to know? I think the main takeaway is that piercers are human beings. We are just as prone to bias, issues and mistakes as the rest of the population. It’s very easy to see piercers on social media as ultra-cool aliens or internet personalities, but at the end of the day we run small businesses and are often sleep deprived and stressed!
The number one thing that we need to stress is this: We get dozens of messages and emails a week from would-be apprentices asking if we are taking on an apprentice and if they can come and apprentice with us. Sometimes these emails are really polite, sometimes they are straight-up demanding! Especially if you have read through this blog, you will understand how much we care about our industry and how high-stakes taking on an apprentice is. The number one way to get blacklisted by a studio is to send unwarranted, demanding messages asking for an apprenticeship. No high quality studio will take on an apprentice via DM. We need to know you as a person! You can read more about apprenticeships on our dedicated ‘Apprenticeships’ blog category. The blog ‘So You Want To Be a Piercer?’ will also make for great reading. We aren’t saying that you have to come and get pierced every week for three years, or spend £xxxx amount of money with us to ‘earn’ your apprenticeship, but building a relationship with a studio is key. It often can’t be forced, either. You can’t push a friendship and expect an apprenticeship to fall out the other end, y’know? Body piercing is often seen as a ‘casual’ industry, where you don’t need to follow the standard rules of employment. What other industry would you expect to enter via DM? The general opinion is that people who DM studios for apprenticeships are not taking it seriously, and don’t have the professionalism to make it in the industry. Don’t fall foul of this social faux pas.
If you have had a response from a studio when you’ve cold-messaged them on instagram, take a moment to consider what kind of situation you might be putting yourself into. You don’t know them, they don’t know you. Oftentimes they will just be looking for a couple of months of free labour and you will leave with nothing.
So there you have it! Some more thoughts on apprenticeships, backed up with some decent data. If you’d like to read more on the subject, we have plenty of blogs covering all kinds of topics so just hit the link above to go have a deep dive! If you have any questions, you’re welcome to drop us an email. Make sure to follow us on instagram! And final reminder…
We are not currently looking to take on an apprentice at Rogue. Please do not contact us to ask for one!