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Beauty For A Better Life: beauty training as a lever to returning to work

Since its creation by the L’Oréal Foundation, the Beauty For a Better Life programme has helped almost 10,000 marginalized people worldwide to reintegrate society. Deputy CEO of the Foundation Florence Lafragette tells us more.

A way for people to regain their courage, self-respect and dignity

For nearly a decade, Beauty For a Better Life, a L’Oréal Foundation programme, has been harnessing the power of beauty to promote social inclusion. The programme provides free training classes in professional hairdressing, make-up and aesthetics to help underprivileged people get back into the workforce. “Life has treated our participants harshly. They have little training and often, they don’t have much of a support network either. In many cases, they lack the resources to get back on their feet”, says Florence.

This is where L’Oréal’s programme comes in, by providing three decisive things: “Top-notch training, long-term support and real job opportunities”. Training-wise, Beauty For a Better Life offers a comprehensive programme. “It covers theoretical in-class courses as well as hands-on activities through salon internships where participants learn the ins-and-outs of hairdressing, make-up or aesthetics”, Florence tells us. Throughout the three to six month programme, participants get personal support both from professionals selected by L’Oréal and its local non-profit association partners. They receive coaching, are taught how to interact with customers, and acquire the skills and know-how they need. Graduates receive not only a certification that is recognised by local authorities, but also an access to L’Oréal’s network that they can tap into to get support. “No effort is spared to ensure that our graduates find work quickly”, says Florence. When asked about results, she said: “By finding work and receiving training in a profession, our students get much more than a job. It is a real opportunity for them to change the way they look at themselves, to regain their courage, self-respect and their dignity”.

The L’Oréal Foundation and subsidiaries are working hard with local non-profits to roll out the programme from Mexico to Vietnam

Creating these kinds of opportunities for social inclusion is a big deal especially in countries where the mere fact of being born a woman is a disadvantage, or where large portions of the population are displaced, such as victims of violence or conflict-torn areas. Florence explains that the goal of Beauty For a Better Life is ultimately to reach out to as many people as possible. Four key players are involved in the program’s worldwide deployment: the L’Oréal Foundation, L’Oréal subsidiaries, non-profits and local authorities. The programme’s success stems from the way that responsibility is shared between them.

The Foundation coordinates all the different programmes, which spanned 25 countries as at the end of 2016. It designs the modules, shares best practices and supervises its global deployment. Projects are initiated by local subsidiaries in countries where the L’Oréal Group is present, such as India, China, Colombia and Vietnam. They already boast an impressive track record in these areas and spearheaded the first programmes before being copied by others. “The subsidiaries understand the specific challenges. In India, where just 10% of the working age population is trained but where the hairdressing market is exploding, L’Oréal India has set up free haircare training programmes”, says Florence. To actually implement its programmes, Beauty For a Better Life teams up with local non-profits, which offer priceless grassroots knowledge and expertise. Partners include Rural Women and the China Women Development Foundation in China, Fundacion Origen in Mexico, SOS Villages d’Enfants in Lebanon, and Pekka in Indonesia. The non-profits help identify and recruit participants but also supervise, coach and adjust modules. Local authorities also offer their support in many cases. LabourNet, a partner non-profit in India, to give an example, is subsidised by the government.

Beauty For a Better Life has blossomed into a close-knit community

In all 25 countries where it operates, Beauty For a Better Life is successful and is definitely bearing fruit. “In Vietnam, two-thirds of trainees have found jobs in hairdressing salons, and the others are setting up their own businesses. Some are making six times more than they used to! In China, many of our graduates work as make-up artists in wedding studios where couples have their prenuptial photoshoots wearing traditional costumes and  with professional make-up. This is a booming trend and a major source of work opportunities for our students”, Florence comments with satisfaction. In addition to these results, the biggest success in her opinion is the fact that they have built a real community. “Participants keep in touch and remain very close. Many of our graduating students go on to become supervisors or coaches in the programme. During the Beauty Days campaign, graduates teamed up with current participants to provide communities in need with hairdressing services.”

Fast growth driven by big ambitions

Backed by its initial success, the programme seeks to keep up its momentum and reach out to new participants. What comes next? Florence tells us that two new programmes are in the works in France this year. L’Oréal is partnering with Groupe SOS to offer a short-term excellence training course based on the model of Thierry Marx’s Cuisine Mode d’emploi(s) programme, plus a joint initiative with Apprentis d’Auteuil to teach individuals about entrepreneurship. She concludes by saying: “We believe we can truly support these people by helping them create their own jobs. This is a real solution for underprivileged and underqualified people ”.

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L’Oréal

French industrial group, global leader in cosmetic products.

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