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Piercing Apprenticeship QnA

Today I’ll be answering all of your questions about piercing apprenticeships! These questions were taken via our instagram, so make sure you follow us there so you don’t miss anything!

We have started a series on apprenticeships as this is something we are asked about all the time! Click here to read all of them.

How long does it take? How much does it cost?

A good apprenticeship is between 2 and 3 years long. Anything shorter than two years is dangerously short and will not give you the education that you need! You should never be charged for an apprenticeship -They should be free. You should expect to be financially compensated for your time.

What do the first few months of an apprenticeship look like?

The first few months of an apprenticeship are pretty dull! The main task is training the new apprentice to be able to work safely in a new environment. Bloodborne pathogens training and first aid must be completed, alongside learning how to handle contaminated medical waste, how to handle sterile stock, how to reprocess tools, and how to general work to a high hygiene standard. The first few months are also dedicated to familiarising the new apprentice to jewellery – What sizes go where, what conversions between fractional inches and millimetres are, how to use callipers, how to measure jewellery, what brands we stock and what each brand offers! You shouldn’t expect to even pick up a needle until you are a good few months into your apprenticeship, and may not pierce a human being until the 5-6 month mark.

How common is being paid for your apprenticeship?

It is unfortunately not so common in the UK to be paid for your apprenticeship. That being said, this should not be the standard as everyone should be fairly compensated for their time. There is a movement within high quality studios to abolish the practice of an unpaid apprenticeship, and this is something to be fully supported.

How far should you travel for an apprenticeship?

It is not uncommon to up sticks and move cross-country for the right opportunity! Consider this – Most people do not live in a town or city with a top university, and so most people move out of home in order to receive their education. You would have to be very lucky to find a high quality apprenticeship on your doorstep in your hometown. For example, we know multiple piercers who have moved across the United States or across the UK for the right opportunity – Some who have even travelled thousands of miles from another country to start their careers. If possible, don’t restrict yourself to studios within an easy commute of where you currently live. There are many potential apprentices who are willing to uproot and move at the drop of a hat.

What is the split like between working hours and free time?

Most apprenticeships are between 20-40 hours a week. You might be given extra reading to do in your spare time, or small pieces of homework to complete, but you should not be working more than a full-time job would ask of you! Apprentices should follow the same labour laws as any other job.

How old is the average apprentice?

The average piercer starts their apprenticeship when they are between 19 and 22 years old. Some start younger, however you should be at least 18 or older to start a safe apprenticeship. Being offered an apprenticeship as a minor is a major red flag in the modern piercing industry.

Is it possible to learn the art of piercing even though you don’t want a full on career out of it?

This is a tricky question to answer. The short answer is that you wouldn’t trust a part-time dentist or doctor.

The long answer would be: Piercing, like all careers, deserves your full and undivided attention in order for you to be skilled, safe and successful. Whilst it is possible to learn piercing and not pursue it once your apprenticeship is finished, the snagging point is that you aren’t fully grasping how much of a career and lifestyle rolled into one being a piercer is. The best piercers are those who have dedicated their lives to the industry and cannot see a fulfilling life without piercing being a major part of it. My question to you is: Why would you want to learn to pierce and not fully embrace every aspect of it?

I’ve seen piercing places offering piercing courses, is this a good step towards getting an apprenticeship?

Absolutely not! Piercing courses teach outdated and dangerous techniques when it comes to both safety and the piercing process itself. A good mentor would absolutely prefer to take on a blank slate rather than have to retrain someone out of sneaky bad habits. Piercing courses are often predatory, aiming to take advantage of those who are struggling to find a good apprenticeship. Do not fall foul of these.

What advice would you give for someone older (30+) looking to become a piercer?

I would say that it is never too late! That being said, I will admit that your chances of getting an apprenticeship do diminish with every passing year. Piercing is unfortunately often the realm of the young, and those piercers who are 30+ are often reaching the peaks of their skill and career and are usually considering taking an apprentice on themselves. To start so late can often leave you at a disadvantage, as disappointing as that may be to hear. Try and expand your expectations – Would working counter staff fulfil what you want to achieve?

Piercing is different everywhere. How do you know someone is doing it properly?

We have a whole blog on how to spot a quality studio. The best way to find a studio that is working to high standards is to look into the UKAPP or APP – Member studios have to meet minimum standards of safety and hygiene. That being said, there are many excellent studios who choose not to be members for whatever reason. Ensure your chosen piercer is working safely, using modern techniques, up-to-date aftercare advice, and appropriate jewellery. For example, you do not want to learn from someone offering tongue scoop piercings or surface piercings using curved barbells, or from someone who is using butterfly backs or externally threaded jewellery.

So there you have it! Some answers to your burning apprenticeship questions. As a note, we are not currently looking for an apprentice and will not be accepting any applications for an apprenticeship for the foreseeable future! However we are more than happy to help you, so get in touch if you have any questions.

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So, you want a career in piercing?

Something we hear commonly as part of our monthly QnAs, in countless emails and in the studio, is “I want to be a piercer, what tips can you give me to become a piercing apprentice?”

It’s no secret that piercing (high quality piercing, at least) is incredibly competitive to get into, and it feels almost impossible to find the right studio at the right time. So, what can you do to improve your chances?

Joining a studio is a little bit like joining a family, as weird as it sounds!

Take it slow.

A good apprenticeship is worth its weight in gold. A bad apprenticeship or piercing course will usually haunt the rest of your career both in your reputation and in bad habits. It might be frustrating, but waiting for a quality apprenticeship is the single most important thing you can do for your career. Rushing into an apprenticeship under an inexperienced mentor or taking a piercing course will do more harm than good in the long run. We go more in-depth into this in our other apprenticeship blog post.

Some piercing apprentices fall into their role by being in the right place at the right time – Luck plays far more of a part than most people would like to admit! However for those who don’t fall into this category, it can take months or even years before they find their apprenticeship. Don’t be discouraged, but do have a backup plan in case piercing ends up not working out for you.

Think about the why.

The first thing any mentor will ask you is well, why do you want to be a piercer? Is it because you have a flair for the technical? Because you enjoy working with the public? Because you just love piercings? It’s a difficult question to answer fully, but something you really need to find a good personal answer for. Everyone’s ‘why’ is different.

Unfortunately simply having a love for piercings won’t carry you very far when you’re bagging your 400th piece of presterile jewellery of the day, or when you are processing the tools after a long day, or when you’re exhausted and dealing with a difficult customer. Piercing is a very emotionally taxing career, and burnout is common. We always aim to be realistic when discussing the piercing industry and piercing careers, so it’s important to know that you will be tired, your back will hurt all the time, and you will be poor forever!

Another solid question to ask yourself is: ‘Would I still be happy being a piercer if overnight it stopped being seen as cool?

Things that will carry you through are a passion for perfection, for practising fine skills, continuous improvement both inside and outside the studio, public education, or for simply becoming a better piercer than your mentor. A passion for the history of piercing is immensely valuable. 

A good candidate for an apprenticeship aims to raise standards whilst also being empathetic and realistic to people’s situations. We can’t teach kindness and empathy, even though they are the foundation of the industry. 

Mr Sebastian should be a name you recognise!

Be Respectful.

I think most high-quality studios will agree with me when I say that we get dozens of emails, DMs and walk-ins either querying us about or asking for apprenticeships. We really appreciate being top of the list when it comes to education, however it can be quite emotionally taxing especially when the answer at the moment is generally no. The industry is overloaded, oversaturated, and most studios are either swamped or still recovering from Covid. 

The main thing we want you to keep in mind when asking about apprenticeships is to not take it to heart if the first, second, heck even tenth request for an apprenticeship is declined. If your piercer says no, make sure you respect that decision. 

It’s an unfortunate truth that most hopeful apprentices will not make it into the industry – For every 100 applicants (each equally passionate, prepared, intelligent and thoughtful!), only one will probably be successful. It’s important to be realistic, and to have a backup plan.

Be Educated

Even though you are applying for an education in becoming a piercing apprentice, it does not hurt to have an awareness of current piercing knowledge, jewellery brands etc. You are not expected to know technique (it is actually preferred that you don’t!) but knowing who Anatometal, Jim Ward, BVLA or Mr Sebastian are is a fantastic start. You can also ask your potential mentor for recommended reading, or tales from the earlier days of piercing. Knowing where we’ve come from is a great way to understand why we are where we are, and to help predict where the industry is going.

Outside of piercing related knowledge, working similar jobs in retail can really prepare you for the everyday reality of working in a piercing studio. It might not feel like it, but piercing is often a retail and aesthetic procedure all rolled into one! This helps you to hone your general customer service skills which is absolutely vital for this industry.

Piercers are not just piercers, often they are self-employed small business owners and have to deal with all the headaches and heartaches that come with that. Learning about how to run a business, how to file taxes, how to organise your schedule and price your services are all super important. 

As a general rule, piercing yourself or your friends at home in preparation for a piercing apprenticeship is one of the biggest no-no’s ever. Never pierce at home

What are They Looking For?

A good tip for success is to look at your prospective studio and try and see what they would look for in a potential piercing apprentice. Each studio is very different – Some have punk roots (like Rogue!), some come from new-age beliefs, some are more commercialised, some are very ‘British’ and some more international. Part of being a successful piercing apprentice applicant is being the right person for the right studio. Is there any point in applying to a punk studio if you are more into pink and sparkles? Yes! Jay is a great example of an apprentice working well in a seemingly opposite studio. That being said, finding a studio that aligns with who you are as a person is really important. Not every studio is perfect for every applicant. 

In terms of what most studios are looking for in an piercing apprentice, it varies from studio to studio however there are some universal requirements. Piercing is based on human interaction, so being shy or being afraid of phone calls is not ideal! As piercers we need to be energetic, confident, and be able to be the loudest person in the room. It’s all about making connections – Whether the customer is 8 or 80. Even if that’s not who you are right now, it is a skill that can be practised! Public speaking is a really good way of getting into the habits that will pay dividends once you become a piercer.

Be Honest.

My final piece of advice is to be honest and open about your intentions about being a piercing apprentice. Most piercers can tell if you are on the hunt for an apprenticeship, so why not be up front and tell us? We really appreciate being asked, and will usually be able to give you a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ with an explanation for each response. Sometimes a no will become a yes given time, so always ask if this is something that might happen. We will always endeavour to be honest with you. Being straight up about your intentions will go a long way – Even if it’s a solid no, it means you can cut your losses and focus on other studios or piercers. We can often give recommendations on where to go as piercing is a very small world!

Being a piercer is not the only way to make it in the industry!

Another thing to note, which I obviously have a strong view of, is that being a piercer is not the only way to be successful in this industry! Counter staff, managers, piercing educators etc. are all absolutely vital, and the industry simply cannot function without them. A good counter staff or jewellery manager is worth their weight in Gold (literally!) We deserve to be taken seriously as a career in our own right, and not simply viewed as an easy way to become a piercer later. Gone are the days of a ‘desk lady!’ We are oversaturated with many a would-be piercing apprentice, yet there is an industry shortage of excellent counter staff and jewellery salespeople. It’s definitely something to consider if you haven’t considered it before.

So there you have it! A high-quality studios thoughts on piercing apprenticeship tips. This will become a series, as we are currently working on an apprenticeship FAQ. If you have any questions you would like answered, contact us on instagram or email us as you may be featured in our next blog post.

-Kat

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Why Does a Piercing Apprenticeship Take So Long?

Today we’ll be discussing why apprenticeships take so long and why you shouldn’t pay for online or in-person piercing schools. A full, comprehensive piercing apprenticeship lasts 2-3 years. In this blog we delve into why that’s the case, and why you shouldn’t settle for anything less.

What is an Piercing Apprenticeship?

An apprenticeship is the best way to learn to pierce. During an apprenticeship, you will be trained by an experienced older piercer in all aspects of safety and technique. Choosing your mentor is a big decision as their experience and reputation will follow you into your professional career. Make sure your mentor is qualified, experienced and a respected member of the industry. For Aiden’s rundown of piercing education, click here.

Aiden has been working in this industry for over 10 years, and was a founding board member of the UKAPP. This is the kind of experienced mentor you should be looking for! (However we might be a little bit biased.)

What do you Learn during a Piercing Apprenticeship?

In short, you learn an awful lot!

You will first learn all the safety aspects of piercing: Bloodborne pathogens training, cross-contamination, how to clean and sterilise jewellery, how to safely reprocess tools, which chemicals to clean your station and clients with, and the correct use of a sterile field including sterilised gloves, needles, tools and jewellery. This first stage prepares you to confidently handle a clean environment and prevent infection of yourself and your clients with harmful pathogens. 

The second stage would be learning to handle your clients, organise your day, organise jewellery orders and keep up to date with the financial side of piercing. You will need to know how to take bookings, organise your finances, handle your clients from the moment they step in the door and how to keep a polite and respectful environment to work in. Most piercers work alone or in small studios, so it is important that you know how to be self-employed and confidently run your business. It’s vital that we take care to teach our apprentices everything there is to know, and how to become a good piercer.  Not only this but it is vital that we teach our apprentices about the history of the industry and where we come from. If we don’t pass on the knowledge of Jim Ward, Fakir Musafar, Mr Sebastian and all the founding greats then we are at risk of losing our history altogether.

The third stage of a piercing apprenticeship is the piercing itself. You will be taught how to prep your clients skin, how to open and handle your sterilised gloves, how to approach your client and how to correctly pierce them. You will be taught which jewellery is appropriate for which piercings, how to safely fit them and how to manage your clients when they come in for their checkups and downsizes. Learning to pierce straight, at the correct depth, angle and with your clients anatomy in mind is hugely important for a successful piercing and an uneventful heal for your client. You will be taught to pierce and master a few basic piercings such as conches, helixes and lobes before moving on to more complex piercings. This can take months of work and practice!

Finally, once you have shown you are adept at all piercings and can work cleanly and safely, you will fledge and become a junior piercer. It may take upwards of two years to get to this point. Yes, upwards of two years! There is so much more to piercing than simply pushing a needle through a client and taking their money.

In addition to piercing ears and noses, to be a solid piercer you do have to consider piercings other areas. Intimate piercings are an important part of what we do and if we don’t pass on the knowledge of how they should be pierced, then we risk letting intimate piercing die out in the UK. Being taught to be an ‘ear piercer’ only is a dissatisfying apprenticeship.

Why You Should Never Attend a Piercing School

At Rogue we have seen many piercing schools come and go, but we are yet to see a single school provide a course that gives its learners an acceptable skill level to begin piercing. There are far too many piercing schools or other people who feel that they can teach piercing but they simply do not grasp the scope and depth of knowledge that must be learnt.

Piercing Schools are not the way to go. Don’t fall into the trap!

The average piercing school course in the UK lasts 6 days. 6 days! 6 days is not enough time to learn the basics of hygiene, nevermind become a fully fledged and skilled piercer! There is no way that you will become a confident, adept and knowledgeable piercer with only 40 hours of training. Often these schools are teaching outdated techniques and training you to use low-quality jewellery. As a learner, you may not even realise you are being taught dangerous techniques until it is too late.

Apprenticeships are usually unpaid and usually free of charge. You should not be attending a piercing school that costs thousands of pounds to end up with a ‘qualification’ that actually devalues you in the eyes of the piercing industry. Most high-end piercing studios will reject applications for work or apprenticeships from someone who has taken a piercing course. Some piercing schools claim that a short 2 day course is enough to prepare you for an apprenticeship, but this simply isn’t true. A good studio will think twice about taking you on as an apprentice as they will have to sink time into retraining you out of bad and potentially dangerous habits. It’s simply not worth it.

So How Do I Get An Apprenticeship?

We understand that apprenticeships are rare and incredibly competitive to get. It’s like applying to a university that doesn’t tell you what A levels or grades you need! However, you should not get discouraged from trying to enter the piercing industry. 

In order to secure an piercing apprenticeship, you must first find a piercing studio that is qualified to give you the valuable education that you need. The best way to do this is to find your local APP or UKAPP member studio. This proves that they are working to a high standard of safety and do not compromise their clients safety in order to increase their profits. Some studios are not members and yet exceed the standards set by the UKAPP, so do your own research if you cannot find an APP studio. An piercing apprenticeship from a low quality studio that is not willing to teach you to be a high quality piercer is no apprenticeship at all. Be careful of studios that simply want unpaid labour!

Once you have found a studio, it is important that you attend the studio and get pierced by them regularly. Studios are often overwhelmed by apprenticeship requests, often from total strangers, so it is important that you become a recognised and valuable client first. If you have the funds, purchasing high-end jewellery and showing you appreciate high-quality items is a very good way to set yourself above the competition. Becoming a known client is good in that even if that particular studio doesn’t take you on as an apprentice, they can often recommend you as an apprentice to a studio who is looking to take someone on. At this stage you should also be familiarising yourself with high-quality jewellery. Read up on internal threading or threadless jewellery and why external thread is dangerous. Learn about ASTM regulations and why ASTM F-136 Titanium is the safest metal! Find out why sterling silver is not a safe material, and why jewellery must be a certain gauge or thickness in order to be safe. If you really want to impress, memorise the conversions between gauges and inches and metric millimeters!

From becoming a valued client, the next step is to offer your services. This is not a guarantee of an apprenticeship! You can simply ask the piercer if you can help clean up at the end of the day, answer the phone and generally make yourself useful. Quite often as piercers work solo, they will appreciate your offer!

From here, you can ask about an apprenticeship. Taking on an apprentice is a huge financial burden to a studio as you often cost them more money than you make. It’s a big decision to make and your studio may have to think about it. If they offer you an apprenticeship- Congratulations! You are taking the first step to becoming a piercer. If they refuse your offer, don’t panic. They may not be in a position to offer one to you now, but they may reconsider in the future. If not, you can always ask them if they would recommend you to another studio who can take you on. 

As an aside, piercing is a very hard job both physically and mentally. Yes, you can look however you want and be the person you want to be but only to a point. Even within piercings there are limits to how extreme you can look and still maintain a strong client base. Piercing is a fairly unstable job, and the pandemic has only made this more obvious. You don’t become a piercer if you want to be rich! Piercing is also a hugely demanding full time job and a lifestyle. Burnout is very real and mental health issues are a topic of constant conversation within piercing. Make sure you are certain that you want this life before delving into an apprenticeship.

So there you have it! A pretty comprehensive review of what a piercing apprenticeship looks like, and why you should not fall into the trap of piercing schools and courses. Thank you all for taking the time to read this and we will see you again next Friday for a new blog!