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.
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.
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!