Delvis Bona, International Examiner and Spa Consultant

Hair and beauty jobs talks to the inspirational and energetic, albeit slightly bonkers Delvis Bona about life in Beauty, Training and how we need to take education seriously.

Delvis has a ridiculously long string of qualifications to her name, is Vice Chair of Education for BISA (British International Spa Association) and acts as an international examiner and spa consultant.

Education and training plays such an important role in our industry and has a fundamental affect on operations and the commercial aspect of a business further down the line.

Q. How did you get into the whole training route?

I started life as a social worker so concentrated on counseling, social care, law and things like that. As part of my professional development I was sent on courses and I chose teacher training¦it was great as it was on a Friday and I got to go home at 4.30pm so it was great! I found that I loved exams and teaching, so I was asked to conduct inter departmental workshops and courses; that was my foundation for things to come, the Therapy Training courses came later.

Q. What are the biggest challenges you face in trying to raise the standards within the spa industry, in the UK?

One of the biggest challenges is definitely getting the opportunity to get staff away from their job to get proper hands on training. Many therapists still feel that they can learn from a text book but that is not sufficient, you really need to feel what you're doing hands on.

Once companies then decide that they do want to invest in their staff we have the problem of lack of training facilities within the UK or the fact that busy spas don't want to release rooms to be used for training.

More bespoke training facilities please!

Q.We have many travelling therapists from UK; world bound and from the rest of the world, UK bound. You sit on the Board of BISA and input greatly into education further a field; Do you think there is a wider issue for an accessible international accredited qualification in spa therapy or even assessment centres within the UK or anywhere else in the world that foreign therapists can attend to gauge where they fit in?

There is definitely a need for more integration of qualifications and training centres around the world. Many countries use international qualifications and others just have nationally recognized qualifications¦our task is to match them all up to assist the job seeker and employers alike.

We have a training school in Malta that is attracting Therapists from all over the world including as far a field as Hong Kong.

Robert Czik opened the First Spa Academy here in the UK in November 07 and I know many Japanese students are attending courses there.

In addition, personally, I am always happy to travel and regularly train overseas As part of the Spa Management Course, part of the training is carried out in a training centre and then 'real' job placement training takes place in the Spas like Chiva Som ; there is nothing like real experience.

Since Poland joined EU we've been getting increased communication from Polish Therapists unsure as to what qualification level they're equivalent to in the UK.

With regard to Poland itself, they don't have many International National qualifications. You tend to find that the 'hands on' quality of the therapists is excellent. We are finding that many therapists have trained through the medical route so have great knowledge of Anatomy and Physiology. The work ethic of Polish therapist is excellent so it doesn't take long to upgrade the skill sets and put them through recognized routes when they decide to travel outside of Poland.

As therapists go they can travel in Europe and take qualifications free of charge but have to pay for exam books etc. Colleges in Ireland offer this program and a Polish student is entitled to free in patient health care in an Irish hospital.

With the spa business booming, bringing with it more booked appointments and perhaps sales targets, is it becoming harder for spa therapists to practice what they preach about the kindness, care, sometimes even healing element of their role as well as the physical aspect of delivering great treatments and services?

It is getting harder as many spas are after quantity of clients through the door and this can affect quality. Clients are becoming more in tune with what is on offer now and are looking for quality and as 'spa' is more readily available, they continue to search until they find it.

Well trained therapists, with excellent knowledge have the ability to 'recommend' and do it naturally, therefore they can still sell as well as deliver a great service.

Attitude plays a huge role in the delivery of exceptional treatments!

Q. Do you feel spa therapists are more prone to repetitive strain injury for example or stress? Does spa education in general take this into account or is there a needs gap?

Repetitive strain injury is a very interesting debate; 6 back to back massages could be perceived as a hard days work , if an incorrect technique is used and the therapist had poor posture and deportment. In my opinion, it is not normally the number of treatments but how they are carried out that may cause injury. At training schools and colleges, students are taught the importance of maintaining good posture and deportment to avoid injury. Continual training and monitoring of the therapists standard of work wiill maintain good health and safe working practice.

Stress is a completely different ball game! I firmly believe that levels of stress are directly proportional to leadership and other physical and environmental issues. If you treat your staff with respect, have human dignity, listen and hear what they say, have excellent communication¦the workplace becomes a far less stressful place to be. Staff should have somewhere to go during their break times, a break out area or staff room; it doesn't need to be big but it shows you care.

Q. Views in general on examination pass standards for spa therapists. Is there consistency? Or are there disparities?

Finally there are some consistencies now but this is relatively new to our industry. I feel that things may be improved by integrating the actual beauty therapy training with product training i.e. the use of multiple houses products so comparisons can be made and increased product knowledge is gained during training. If a therapist doesn't get on with a particular brand then all is not lost as there are others she can work with; the flip side may be a lack of motivation and drive if 'the tools for the job' aren't right in her opinion.

Q. Current challenges that face the spa industry (advent of medical spas, customer expectations etc) and how BISA can help address these challenges

Quality training is the challenge. The old fashioned way of learning , spilt one day a week for a year so each week the student needs to get back in the learning zone; flexible training and learning and the ability for courses to be delivered over a block of xxx number of weeks leaves students fully fired up, empowered and raring to go. For example, I am involved in delivering the ITEC Spa Diploma Course in a 2 week block we work with over 100 models in 2 weeks this is great for the students we also use a selection of products from leading companies, and during the course students have the opportunity to work with many different types of Exfoliators, Wraps, Masks and equipment from Hamman ,Rasual, thalasotherapy Ice Grotto to Steam

As an organization we need to find new methods of delivery of training so that it works for everyone and has a positive impact on the standards of therapists entering our market place.

Q. If you were presenting on a stage what 3 key messages would you want to give our industry?

From a business point of view, know that we are in one of the fastest growing sectors and financial institutes are looking to invest serious money in 'beauty/spa/wellness'.

From a educational point of view, we are now recognized players, gone are the myths of the beauty industry just 'slapping on some lotions and potions' and getting paid! We need to continue to raise our game and be proud of what has been achieved to date and how perceptions can change.

Never dismiss but embrace the metrosexual male; male grooming is booming!

Q. What was the best piece of advice you were ever given?

Mum always said, "if you want something done, ask a busy person and I get a job offer everyday".

Q. What top 10 tips would you give as an examiner to students?

  • Revise, revise, revise.
  • Always look the examiner in the eye.
  • Speak clearly and with confidence.
  • Be perfectly groomed.
  • Think deportment, straight back!
  • Smile!
  • Have excellent client care.
  • Listen and hear the question before answering.
  • Don't over complicate your answers, use common sense.
  • Enjoy it!

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