Business and Economy

Scheme to help Devon’s homeless learn a trade launched

Posted on: 9 February 2018

A pilot scheme to help Devon’s homeless gain the skills, qualifications and confidence needed to get their lives back on track and pursue a career in hair and barbering, has been launched.

The scheme gives new hope to homeless and vulnerably housed adults who want to learn a trade so they can support themselves and their loved ones.

Now Devon County Council’s adult education service Learn Devon, Hair@theAcademy, a specialist training salon supporting vulnerable people, Exeter salon The Hair Boutique and homeless shelter Gabriel House have joined forces to give the homeless a helping hand.

The launch was held at The Hair Boutique in Musgrave Row (Thursday 8 February) and was attended by learners, representatives from Learn Devon, The Hair Boutique, Catherine Kidman of the VTCT, the awarding body for the hairdressing qualifications, and John McNally MP, Chair of the Hair industry All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG).

Six vulnerably-housed adults will take part in the course which will teach hairdressing skills, give practical experience and allow learners to work towards a Level 2 Certificate in Barbering.

The day-to-day training will be delivered by Hair@theAcademy – more than 90% of Hair@theAcademy learners pass their qualifications, with 70% moving on to further education or employment.

As part of the scheme specialist tutors at Learn Devon will be on hand to help prepare the learners for the workplace. This includes ongoing support and help with their Maths and English skills.

The pilot is one of the first of its kind and could be rolled out across the country.

Hair@TheAcademy and Learn Devon has worked successfully together for several years helping vulnerable young people and adults learn new skills.

Lisa, one of the learners who lives in supported living accommodation, said: “I started hair at college but I fell pregnant so I had to leave.
“I’ve always wanted to be a hairdresser but my life was too hectic until now.
“When I’m qualified I’d like to stay on to do hairdressing. I’m planning to have my own mobile hairdressing service. I’m looking forward to my future in hair and barbering.”

Jack, who also lives in supported living accommodation, is working towards Barbering Level 2 Certificate.

He said: “The more I learn the more I enjoy it.
“At first, I wasn’t sure if I would but I am and I’m 100% glad I started the course and I’m going to see it through until I am a qualified barber.
“When I have finished the course, I hope that with my partner we can start our own business.”

The Hair Boutique is owned by Nicola Marke and Shaun Thornburgh.

Nicola Marke said: “We strongly believe and support this worthwhile project and wanted to help people to learn a great trade that can create a good livelihood and a sense of purpose. The skills they learn will empower all involved in this scheme to provide a valuable service.”

Mary Pugsley of Hair@theAcademy said: “Many learners have not experienced professional working environments before and the ability to work with others is something many of us take for granted.
“For those who have come from challenging backgrounds even getting to the point where they are able to take part in a scheme such as this a huge achievement.
“This scheme will give them the tools and the opportunity to turn their life around in an environment where they feel safe.”

Councillor Stuart Barker Devon County Council’s Cabinet Member for

Councillor Stuart Barker

Economy and Skills, said: “One of our key priorities is improving opportunities for every Devon resident and supporting them to learn the skills they need to improve their lives so they can be independent and economically active.
“This scheme does exactly that, it prepares individuals for the workplace, and helps learners find training placements and provides support with moving on to further training, employment or self-employment.”

7 comments on “Scheme to help Devon’s homeless learn a trade launched

  1. Wendy Jackson says:

    This is a great scheme for the homeless to gain the necessary skills which will lead to employment, and eventually housing. This is similar to the charity Centrepoint that I support. They help young homeless people by giving them temporary accommodation, addressing any health issues & preparing them for employment with further education or skills as needed. I believe they also try to assist in finding a permanent home when they become financially independent. We need more centres like Centrepoint across the whole of the U.K. but this initiative in Devon is a great start. At last someone is doing something to help our homeless, really wonderful!

  2. lynn wakefield says:

    This is an excellent scheme – I hope such positive news will hit the headlines of the national media.

  3. Lisa Rigby says:

    This is a good initiative but are we looking at secure and safe housing, long-term which meets people’s needs alongside. Surely we need to prioritise the housing issue. After all having a stable place to live enables people to move on in their lives and look to training and employment.

    • Hi Lisa. Thanks, and yes it is a great initiative. You’re right about there needing to be a holistic approach to tackling homelessness, and the causes that might lead a person to become homeless; and yes, Councils (District Councils, which are responsible for housing, and ourselves) work together to address those issues. Housing or accommodation is definitely an important part of the solution. What’s also great about this scheme though are the added skills and disciplines that come with learning a trade. So, it’s also about inspiring self-confidence, commitment, and the inter personal skills required to work with other people, and the public. Thanks.

  4. Robin Springett says:

    A worthy scheme I think! Have you considered something similar with the 4 heritage railways in Devon? I think something could be worked out with them to give qualifications for heritage and national rail. They also cover all areas of Devon:

    Lynton & Barnstaple – N Devon
    Dartmouth Steam Railway – Torbay & Dartmouth
    South Devon Railway – South Devon
    Plym Valley Railway – Plymouth

  5. Richard Hosking says:

    An excellent initiative. Hopefully there will be more with alternative skills. Richard

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