Learning a trade provides a path to gainful employment and an industry giant is lending a hand, writes Aznim Ruhana Md Yusup
ONE of the initiatives under the Beauty For A Better Life programme by the L’Oreal Foundation - the philanthropic arm of the cosmetics giant - is free, high-quality vocational training for underprivileged women, which they can use as a source of income or employment.
Training is given in fields that L’Oreal is well-known for, namely hairdressing and beauty care. It is run through collaborations with local NGOs and government authorities and can be found in 26 countries.
The Malaysian chapter of this training programme started in 2016. L’Oreal Malaysia partnered with the National Council of Women’s Organisations (NCWO) to help upgrade the facilities and syllabus of the hairdressing course offered by the Vocational Training Opportunity Centre at YWCA Kuala Lumpur.
The first batch had 10 graduates, and the programme expanded to 21 trainees last year, to include beauty care, following a higher demand and interest in make-up. Each course takes six months, so a student who learns hairdressing will switch to beauty care after that period, and vice versa.
“YWCA has been training girls through the VTOC since 1998,” says Jean Loh, corporate communications director at L’Oreal Malaysia. “They have trained 1,524 girls in programmes such as sewing, culinary, nursery care, hairdressing and beauty care.”
“L'Oreal fully sponsored the courses for hairdressing and beauty, including renovating some of the rooms and providing additional training for VTOC instructors.
When students sign up, they stay at the YWCA with board and lodging covered,” she adds.
The courses have a minimum 1,000 hours of training and include internships at places like Shu Uemera, Urban Decay and YSL Beauty cosmetic stores.
They also get to attend special classes conducted by L’Oreal ambassadors.
L’Oreal targets women who would not have access to these types of education privately, hence the collaboration with VTOC. L’Oreal also follows up with the students after they graduate for job matching and placement, usually at its subsidiaries or partners.
“There are approximately 28,000 hair salons in Malaysia so there is a tremendous opportunity for employment,” adds Loh. “And beauty care is exploding right now; it is the most dynamic sector in the industry and there’s a lot of demand for make-up artists.”
On graduation day in front of their friends and families, the trainees from the latest batch of the programme presented three looks that highlighted their new skills in hair and make-up. The models were done up in distinct styles - Glamour, Romantic and Rock - and all 21 students received their certificates.
The best student award went to 21-year-old Kasturi Krishna Moorthy from Selangor.
“I’m very excited to win Best Student. I was very surprised when they called my name,” she says modestly.
“In the future, I want to continue in the beauty industry as a make-up artist. I like Indian make-up trends, very shiny and dramatic. You see its use for weddings and birthday parties too,” says Kasturi, who found out about the training programme from a relative.
Meanwhile, Lilian Lai, 17, and Cheah Jia Lin, 18, from Johor and Perak respectively, worked together to present the Rock look with dark lips and tousled hair. They’re set to take different paths now that they’ve finished the course.
Lai says she’s been offered a job at a hair salon in her hometown. “I prefer make-up to hair. But my make-up skills are not very professional yet and there’s still a lot I need to learn. So, for now, I will work at the salon first.”
Meanwhile, Cheah plans to continue with a three-month business course before applying for work at beauty salons to become a full-fledged beautician.
“I learnt a lot about beauty care, not only make-up but also manicure, pedicure, henna and facials. We had written exams but it was mostly practical work. For hairdressing, you work on wigs.”
Cheah says she left school after Form 2, and would recommend the programme to anyone who is interested to learn.
“For poor people, single mothers or people with no school certificates, they can head to the VTOC. You have to be at least 16, but they don’t ask for exam results or things like that. I told my aunt about this and her friend’s daughter wants to join the programme too.”