A dynamic and innovative vocational training organisation based near the heart of Stratford, Dare Salon and Academy has seen countless talented students pass through its doors. The salon offers educational training for those who want to pursue a career in hairdressing, including those pursuing an apprenticeship. They have developed an innovative fast-track apprenticeship, which offers key employability skills such as customer service, commercial salon awareness and product sales.
Owner of Dare Salon and Academy, Sharon Dempsey, has been in the hairdressing industry for over 20 years and has an in-depth understanding of working with all hair textures having worked in award-winning hair salons as well as teaching in leading London colleges. Sharon opened her first Salon & Academy in Waltham Abbey, Essex, in 2013; that was followed by her successful East London branch that opened in 2017. Sharon is passionate about apprentices and enjoys seeing them progress through their career journey. She shares that apprenticeships have always been a main focus for the business, in addition to other key NVQ qualifications ranging from Level 1 to Level 4.
From college to celebrity clients – Billy’s story
Sharon has seen many apprentices pass through Dare salon, including Billy Evans who is now a salon owner himself. Billy’s hairdressing career began when he studied NVQ Level 2 and Level 3 in Hairdressing. He then moved on to complete an apprenticeship. He explained, “I chose an apprenticeship because I love learning in a practical environment on the job. I feel like you get a better understanding of the real industry rather than what you can experience in a full-time college setup.”
Billy added, “I loved every minute of my apprenticeship, from learning new skills each week to learning to cope in what may be, for some, a stressful situation in the salon.” He loved the buzz and working under pressure. One challenge for Billy was balancing working full-time with training alongside his workload. “Working full-time and at the weekends was tough as some of my friends only went to college 2-3 days a week and had the rest of the time off. But, it did work out better for me in the long run.”
Within the current Hair Professional Apprentice Standard, there are three main milestones which an apprentice will meet and need to complete to achieve their apprenticeship. The most important being the on-programme component, which is where the learner gains their professional skills, knowledge and behaviours. As part of this process, they will learn everything from the practical skills in hairdressing and customer service to employment rights and responsibilities, and something Billy himself had not considered, the science behind the trade. “I was not expecting all the theory and science behind hairdressing. I had no idea there were so many foundational principles to learn about the industry itself. It was fascinating to find it all out.”
Billy has now been qualified for 6 years and has spent time working across different salons in Essex, London and Hertfordshire. He has gained experience in both big chain salons and smaller outlets, and he has had many opportunities to work with a wide range of clients, including reality stars and celebrities!
Sydney is aiming high
Sydney is one of Sharon’s current apprentices at Dare Salon and Academy and is studying the VTCT Level 2 Diploma for Hair Professionals (Hairdressing). From a young age, Sydney knew she wanted to follow in the footsteps of her mum and have the same career as a hairdresser. Throughout her childhood, she loved to practice her skills on friends and family and wanted to follow her dream and develop a successful career.
Today, Sydney is currently undertaking her apprenticeship and is learning a range of new skills that encompass her passion for the practical elements of her studies, and also include things like front of house duties and professional development. She and her manager have developed a close working relationship which is something Sydney values most about learning on the job. “I have loved training with my boss, and also learning new things. I love working with new people and I’m very confident in the progress I have made throughout the programme so far,” she shared enthusiastically. She has also faced challenges, to which she has risen admirably. She reflected, “My biggest challenge so far has been stepping out of my comfort zone by talking to new people on a daily basis. It has helped me grow and gain more confidence which I wouldn’t get in a classroom.”
Another benefit of an apprenticeship is the opportunity for most to have full-time employment once they complete their studies. This is something Sydney hopes for, “After I have completed my apprenticeship I’d like to carry on working with my boss as I am very happy within my workplace.” She feels settled and confident in her abilities, but also gives credit to her supportive workplace for her success, “I love where I am and wouldn’t be here today without all my hard work and focus. I also give credit to the dedication and efforts of my boss.”