Many Thanks to IPDGA member Tom O'Mahony for collating this valuable info
Long gone are the days when as a groomer in Ireland having decided that gaining a professional qualification is for you; the clear path to take would be the City & Guilds Level 3. This was historically the number one route to becoming industry recognised qualified. It is a British internationally recognised qualification, Ofqual being the awarding body. The City & Guilds has had many makeovers throughout the years, typically every four years or so a little revamp or name change is to be expected. In most recent years it has evolved from the learners curriculum being three practicals (short legged terrier, spaniel and long legged terrier/poodle/mini schnauzer) and one long written paper. After this the level 3 had been split in two parts, the introductory certificate at level 3 being the prerequisite to the diploma. Both parts needed to be successfully achieved for a groomer to become fully qualified. Although the modules for both level 3’s were relevant, it lead to confusion for some, and the ability for groomers who had completed their Level 3 Introductory Certificate to say they were level 3 qualified. This version of the qualification also saw the much needed introduction of a Handstrip module, so the evolution was pretty good overall. More work was needed with the introductory assignments, two written papers, practicals and then on to the diploma practicals of three dogs, just like its predecessor.
Now the City & Guilds have had their latest revamp, the ‘Level 3 Diploma in Dog Grooming’ (7863-03). This qualification is back to one part, hurray C&G have learned from the past that splitting it in two was a silly idea! It consists of all the modules you would expect – health and safety, legislation, codes of practice, health checking, styling and finishing, customer relations etc. The practicals have had the biggest change with the learner now needing to style a dog with a wool coat, silky coat, wire, double and the dreaded wool mixed variety dogs we all have come to love, right? So you might be asking yourself, why is this new qualification becoming less and less popular with the grooming industry as the right route to take? Well C&G have decided that the level 2 Certificate for Dog Grooming Assistants (7763-02) must now be completed first before commencing with the level 3. This, to be fair, is at least a more clear view of a level you are qualified to and is a great choice for students coming from school but for the existing groomer with X amount of life experience in the salon, it’s a bit of a slap in the face! With older versions of the City and Guilds, students could incorporate the level 3 introductory course into their private training, however, 18 months to 2 years was recommended of real life grooming experience before commencing to the Diploma level. Nowadays candidates can have as little as 10 weeks industry experience before being qualified to Diploma level, which does raise the question (with C&G and other qualifications below), with such a short period of actual dog grooming experience required, has the Diploma lost some of its credibility? For ROI groomers, we saw the closure of our satellite centres ceasing operation with no others stepping up to offer the C&G, so it has made achieving the C&G quite difficult for us. Having the Level 2 as a prerequisite was increasing cost to all, but especially for students with an average of £1,000+ extra expense and even more paperwork on top of the massive volume that was previously required for the tutors. City & Guilds offer no fast track options for the existing groomer. There are a few centres still delivering it in Northern Ireland.
So are there other options for us?
QQI (Quality & Qualifications Ireland)
Thankfully there is! There is the QQI level 5 and 6 in animal grooming. These qualifications are delivered by many colleges across Ireland with some offering night time or part time course options and are a good starting point to begin your career in dog grooming. The QQI is a minor award but for newbie groomers it gives good knowledge of dog grooming and can certainly be a nice touch to your CV when starting your career. All qualifications have what’s known as credit value, with the QQI having a credit value of 15, compared to the C&G level 3 having 44. The QQI level 5 must be completed before achieving the level 6 or real life experience. In the level 6 animal grooming course, learners must complete a grooming procedure on a dog from start to finish, health checking, grooming plans, handling of dogs and grooming tools correctly, and be competent in clipping and use of scissors etc.
OCN (Open College Network)
The OCN Northern Ireland has a number of qualifications on offer. The OCNNI Level 3 Certificate in Commercial Dog Grooming and Salon Management, regulated by Ofqual (The Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation UK). This qualification will provide learners with an understanding of what is required when grooming different breeds, and the skills necessary to carry out grooming and salon management tasks. A theory and assessment based qualification, it holds a credit value of 18 so comparable to the old C&G level 3 introductory level.
The OCNNI Level 3 Diploma in Professional Grooming & Salon Management & Pet First Aid/CPR, regulated by Ofqual. This qualification is more in-depth than the certificate above and is comparable to the C&G Level 3 Diploma. It holds 38 on the credit value scoresheet. Having the pet first aid is a fantastic addition to this qualification and has enhanced the learners skills involved. Fast track options available to the established and experienced dog groomer. Again, this is both theory and practical based of course.
Both these qualifications can be included into a training course for new-to-grooming groomers meaning that upon completion, the learner will have a recognised qualification after successful completion of their course.
iPet Network are a new awarding body regulated by Ofqual, offering a new and exciting qualification to the dog grooming industry. Their Level 3 Diploma in Dog Grooming and Salon Management (603/5945/6) is designed for candidates who wish to gain the skills and knowledge to prepare, style and finish a range of dog breeds, understand health and safety, promote welfare, practice business management and gain skills in canine emergency first aid. It deals with legislation, health checking, handling and canine behaviour while also educating students on the operational side of a dog grooming business. It holds a total credit value of 40. For the practical side of the formal assessments, learners must carry out a full groom (to include prep, bathing, drying and styling) on three different breeds, styles and coat types. Of course there’s a theory side with the learner completing a variety of assessments in the their portfolio. This qualification can be linked in with a training course, so once successful completion with an approved tutor, the groomer will have an internationally recognised dog grooming qualification. There is also a fast track option available for experienced groomers.
ICMG (International Certified Master Groomer)
The ICMG is a qualification supplied by IPG (International Pet Groomers Ltd.). It has been gaining in popularity across the UK and now is available in Ireland. There are three stages involved before gaining the title of Master Groomer and allowing the post nominal letters ICMG.
Track 1 – stage one:
CSP (Certified Salon Professional) consisting of practical and written examinations.
Track 1 – stage two:
CPG (Certified Professional Groomer) consisting of two practical and two written exams. This is comparable to the C&G level 2.
Track one deals with safe handling, effective bathing and drying of a variety of coat types, trimming nails, legislation, codes of practice, animal welfare, first aid, clipping and styling etc.
CAPG (Certified Advanced Professional Groomer) consisting of written exams and two practicals, toy group and a double coated dog. This is roughly comparable to the Level 3 Diploma. Track two deals with canine structure, clipping and styling techniques, handling toy breeds and elderly dogs, canine anatomy, skeletal structure etc.
ICMG (International Certified Master Groomer) consisting of four more practicals and eight more written exams covering many grooming needs for all other dog groups and mixed breeds. Comparable to other master groomer qualifications. It is best to do further research into these qualifications because a novella would be required to cover all topics 😁.
Membership to IPG is necessary. In these strange times of lockdowns and restrictions ICMG UK are offering zoom certification.
Other Master Grooming Qualification routes
PIF (Pet Industry Federation) supplies the Higher Diploma. Traditionally in the UK and Ireland this was the preferred route to take, as it was the only option at the time. The entry requirements is to hold the C&G Diploma. The newest version, having been re-written, consists of several practical examinations along with hefty written examinations and a portfolio of assessments, case studies and projects. Upon completion of all ten modules the Higher Diploma is awarded with the option of being inducted into the Guild of Master Groomers, a prestigious accolade. It is worth noting that membership to BDGA (British Dog Groomers Association) is required to be inducted and maintain the title of Guild of Master Groomer.
OCNNI Level 4/5 MasterCraftsman in Professional Dog Grooming.
This relatively new course consists of both practical and assessment based course work. Ten assignments consisting of projects, breed case studies, advanced canine health and management and salon management to name a few, combined with four practical examinations to demonstrate advanced styling skills and breed understanding make this an exciting new qualification option. This course is open to experienced groomers who have a minimum of 24 months full time experience grooming, unlike its counterparts Higher Diploma and ICMG which require formally recognised qualifications as entry requirements. Perhaps having the OCNNI Dog Grooming Diploma or equivalent would be great to see here as an entry requirement so that it can be more in line with the other Master Qualifications.
Now that we’re all bogged down with information of different course types and credit values, what does it all mean and what route is the ideal option??
The only Irish based qualification available to Irish dog groomers right now is the QQI Level 5&6 in Animal Grooming. As minor awards holding low credit values, unfortunately they do not hold the same international recognition as some of the Ofqual regulated qualifications. Does this then mean they are worthless and a waste of time? I think not! All education holds value and should be championed. The work experience needed for the level 5 is fantastic to allow students to get an insight into the modern dog grooming salon and gain invaluable real life experience which could lead to employment. They are a great starting point.
So what’s really considered in the industry to be a fully qualified groomer? Typically educators would agree that credit values, total qualification time and guided learning hours play a part, but most would agree that credit values of 38 or more are industry acceptable. So for us Irish groomers what should we be looking at? Well in NI the options are C&G, OCN and iPet Network centres offering Level 3 diplomas, and for us in the Republic we are once again blessed with two centres in Dublin that offer the iPet Network Diploma. With Fast track options available it has become more accessible and cost effective for existing groomers to obtain internationally recognised qualifications. Of course not forgetting the many incredible groomers who offer one to one training to help get us at the desired skill level.
Tom O’Mahony MCG
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