Pinkey Thapa, with nine years experience in teaching, decided to join the hair and beauty training at Norbu Academy of Spa after returning from her studies in the United States.

She has plans to go back to the States and open a hair and beauty salon there. “I might even use Bhutanese oils that were introduced to me during the training,” she said.

Like Pinkey, Nima, a differently-abled youth, has plans to open his own hair salon in Dagana. He is one of the 10 differently-abled trainees whose training was supported by Disable Persons’ Association of Bhutan (DPAB).

“There aren’t many hair salons in Dagana and I plan on living off the business,” he said.

Pinkey and Nima are among the 33 graduates who underwent the four-month training with the centre and graduated yesterday.

Of the 33 graduates, 19 were trained in spa and 14 in hair and beauty.

The academy has been conducting four months spa, hair and beauty therapy training with the objective of unlocking youth’s opportunities in wellness industries. It has trained about 83 trainees since 2016.

According to the Director of the Academy, Yeshi Wangchuk, the industry has not been able to cater to the growing demand from the wellness industry. “Currently, there is more demand for wellness industries than the supply of therapists,” he said.

The academy collaborates with 13 employers for spa therapy and five employers for hair and beauty training. As a result, a 100 percent employment scheme after graduation is in place.

Owner of Lekhar Resort and Spa in Punakha, Dorji Choden, said that demand for spa and therapy trainers was high. She had job offer for four but got only one. “I hope the intake in the next batch increases.”

Despite the 100 percent employment scheme, the institute lack numbers. The academy can take in 40 trainees per batch, 20 for spa and 20 for hair and beauty.

Yeshi Wangchuk said that could be attributed to factors like low public perception of the wellness industry. “Bhutanese are not yet used to the idea of professionalism in the industry and see this as a job for the less educated,” he said.

The trainees in the academy are introduced to Bhutanese essential oils. In an attempt to localise the massage services, the academy has introduced Kunye massage therapy.

Kunye involves a three-step process: applying oil, massaging oil, and wiping off the oil. All essential oils required for the massage are Bhutanese product.

Esori Waglay