Barbering training transforms lives of Exeter’s long-term unemployed

City Barbers staff Zahit and Berua, Abigail Clark and Zoe Butt who both recently qualified with Hair @ the Academy, City Barbers co-owner Vicky Jackson and barber Kim

Posted on: 23 September 2015

A group of long-term unemployed people from Exeter, who recently qualified as barbers and are setting out on their new careers, have described how the training enabled them to develop confidence and transform their lives.

The 19-week course is funded by Learn Devon – Devon County Council’s adult education service – and delivered by Hair @ the Academy, a salon at the Exeter Deaf Academy that offers hair and beauty training to disengaged adults and young people. The course is free to unemployed adults who are drawing benefits in their own right.

Natalie Hirst, who has started work at City Barbers in Exeter, says:

“I’m grateful for this opportunity – the course has given me skills and confidence. I can’t believe how barbering has changed my world – I haven’t had a job for years.”

Abigail Clark, who has also recently qualified and undertook work experience with City Barbers, says:

“I started the course a couple of weeks after everybody else but the teachers helped me to catch up. I have loved coming along each week and am looking forward to telling everybody I am a qualified barber.”

Course participants work towards a certificate in barbering from awarding organisation VTCT. They develop the practical skills necessary to cut men’s hair and facial hair, and learn how to offer a good consultation service to clients. They also gain a sound knowledge of health and safety in the barbering industry. The course runs on one day per week, with a maximum of nine learners to optimise one-to-one tuition.

As well as funding the barbering training, Learn Devon delivers its ‘Exploring setting up your own business’ course to the learners. This gives them an understanding of what is required to run a business, and helps them analyse what skills are needed and what ones they already have, so they can develop themselves to help them be successful.

The course has now run three times, and students who have previously qualified from it are enjoying progressing in their new careers.

Claire Reeves attended the first course and is currently training to be a ladies hairdresser as well as learning to mentor new students. She says:

“The barbering course was a completely new thing to me after being out of education for a long time. I’m much more confident now and feel excited about the future.”

Jessica Reeves, who enrolled on the second course, initially found it difficult, but persevered and grew in confidence each week. She says:

“I would have been disappointed if I had given up, especially now I’m doing mobile barbering. Thank you for the opportunity to train and become independent.”

Nicole Carpenter also went on the second course and is working towards being a full-time mobile barber. She says:

“The course has given me so much confidence. I met some lovely people and advise anyone who wants to get into barbering to do the course – it is fantastic.”

Mary Pugsley, who owns Hair @ the Academy, says:

“This initiative helps adults gain the skills and qualifications to be independent and lead successful lives. It is a rewarding experience for us to see their passion to learn and become independent through work.”

Learn Devon will be funding more barbering courses at Hair @ the Academy in the future. Anyone interested in joining should contact Learn Devon on 0345 155 1014 or at

Learn Devon offers adult and community education at its centres in Exmouth, Newton Abbot, Totnes, Tavistock, Ilfracombe and Bideford, as well as at other community locations around the county. It is funded by the Skills Funding Agency and European Social Fund.

1 comment on “Barbering training transforms lives of Exeter’s long-term unemployed

  1. Gabby Southern says:

    It is not very good to go out as a mobile hairdresser/barber when newly qualified , especially after only a few months training you need to have salon experience first. This is giving hairdressers a bad reputation.

Posted in: Business and Economy | Community | Education