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Exeter-based Hair@theAcademy, a unique hairdressing training salon and only one of its kind in the UK, has been granted European funding to support disadvantaged people and job seekers in Exeter and surrounding area to retrain in barbering.  In addition, the Vocational Training Charitable Trust (VTCT), a specialist awarding and assessment organisation offering vocational and technical qualifications in a range of service sectors, has launched a new mental health awareness qualification with the help of the Hair Academy.

Hair@theAcademy is owned and run by senior state registered hairdresser Mary Pugsley MBE.  Mary and her team offer training in hairdressing, barbering and customer service for vulnerable and disadvantaged young people, helping them re-train in a new trade in order to get into paid work. Formerly based at The Deaf Academy, Hair@theAcademy relocated to new larger premises in the heart of the City, generously funded by The Incorporation of Weavers, Fullers and Shearmen of Tuckers Hall charity based in Fore Street, Exeter.

The Hair & beauty industry contributes £6.6billion annually to the UK economy with barbershops showing highest growth on the High Street.  The European funding is available for Hair@theAcademy to deliver Level 2 barbering qualifications to disadvantaged young people in Exeter and surrounding area.  Applicants need to be over the age of 16, with low income, unemployed or who have been struggling to apply for barbering training from other education providers. With only a total of 20 places allocated and spaces filling fast, applicants need to move quickly as the deadline is Monday 14th December.  Before Christmas shut-down, applicants will be invited for an informal interview to discuss their current situation.  Dependent on Covid-19 guidelines, some interviews may take place virtually.

The 19-week barbering course takes place in the New Year starting on 8th January, and the one day a week session will be held on Fridays during the day or in the evenings at the salon based in Kimberly Road which is easily accessible on a major bus route.  Each student will be given their own personal barbering kit and be work-ready on the successful completion of the training programme.  “This is ground-breaking and identifies the need at this level within education.” Explains Mary.  “It’s a life-changing course for disengaged young people who cannot access this funding anywhere else or feel too frightened to apply because they may have mental health or anxiety issues.  Our first sign-up is an asylum seeker, so it really is available for people from all walks of life.”

Alongside the barbering qualification, students will have the opportunity to gain a Level 1 mental health awareness qualification from VTCT. With more than 2,000 approved centres worldwide, VTCT has an ever-expanding list of centres throughout the UK and Ireland, with a growing international presence. The organisation has developed a new mental health awareness qualification which is being offered to centres across the country, of which Hair@theAcademy was one of the first.

Mary Pugsley MBE – Owner of Hair@theAcademy said: “It’s well-known that clients develop a trusting relationship with their hairdresser and beauty therapists; feeling safe in opening up to them when something is causing them concern.  Offering this qualification to our students will not only help them to recognise where there is a problem, but also gives them the tools on how to understand and help.  I feel it’s really important to identify and support mental health, particularly during Covid-19 when it is more vital than ever, and we are fortunate to have access to our own counsellor who joined us two years ago to help our students, particularly through these current challenging times.” 

Mary adds: “We organised a confidential survey with our Hair@theAcademy students, simply asking them to give us a paragraph on: ‘How do you feel?’.  Many feel that no-one else is suffering like they are, and one student expressed her feelings of isolation, saying ‘I feel so alone’ no less than three times.  This type of honest feedback gave us a reality check on how belonging and feeling valued gives our young people the confidence to speak up, and enables us to identify, address and support them in their mental health issues. This new qualification will not make our students experts; it will however enable them to recognise and identify mental health issues for themselves, peers, friends, family, and clients. This support will let them feel less isolated and give them newfound confidence.”

The full suite of market-leading qualifications developed by VTCT covers hairdressing & barbering / beauty therapy, complementary therapy, sport, active health and fitness, hospitality and catering, business, retail, and learning and development. 

Kelly Huntington, Head of UK Sales – iTEC & VTCT explains: “Being responsive to the needs of the industry is a top priority for iTEC & VTCT.  We recognise there is a need to provide education on mental health awareness and insight to barbers, hairdressers, and therapists so they can best respond in these situations.  As a result, we have launched our new regulated Level 1 Award in Mental Health Awareness.”  She adds: “Mental Health issues affect 1 in 4 people every year. Our qualification helps learners develop a knowledge and understanding of mental health and wellbeing, allowing them to better understand the range of mental health conditions and how they affect individual lives as well as the impact on society and the world.”

The hair & beauty sector with over 49,000 businesses, employs almost 337,000 across the UK.  John McNally MP is Chair of the Hair All-party Parliamentary Group on the hair industry and a staunch supporter of Mary Pugsley MBE and the Hair@theAcademy. 

John McNally MP concludes:   “It would be a great step forward for this model of excellence in raising personal self-esteem and paths to a better life, to be adopted across all relative partner agencies.”

To apply for an interview for the Barbering course, call Claire, Salon Manager of Hair@theAcademy: 07818 022 487

Further information can be found on Facebook or visit: www.hairattheacademy.co.uk