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Winner spotlight – Apprentice of the Year

Winner spotlight – Apprentice of the Year

Q&A: Celebrating Natasha Bloor – VTCT Excellence Awards Apprentice of the Year 2023

Natasha Bloor’s ambition, dedication to her training and desire to improve her skills impressed the judges. So much so, that she was crowned as the very first VTCT Excellence Awards Apprentice of the Year winner.

Natasha’s nomination not only demonstrated her skill as a hairdresser but also her commitment to helping her community. Born deaf, Natasha uses communication skills such as speech and lip reading to build strong relationships with both her colleagues and clients. As well as this, she has used her unique skillset to ensure other deaf women can enjoy a salon experience comfortably.

In this Q&A, she delves into how she overcame the challenges she’s faced, her stand-out moments as an apprentice and what she plans to do next.

How did it feel when you found out you won VTCT Excellence Awards?

It felt amazing and it was so exciting to be the winner of Apprentice of the Year. What made it even better was when the song ‘Firework’ by Katy Perry was played when I collected my award. It’s one of my favourite songs as it symbolises not to be afraid of what we have and who we really are but to be proud of it. And that’s why I am so proud of myself for working so hard to receive this award.

What inspired you to pursue a career in the hair industry?

I have always wanted to be a hairdresser from a young age, and then when I was growing up & first had hair done, I started to realise I would like to do this as a career. Also, my boss at the salon, Nick Tedd, came to visit my school to give a talk about creativity, art and his hairdressing career. This really inspired me even more as he has hearing loss & uses technology like me. Some years later, I contacted Nick about an apprenticeship at his salon and I’ve been here ever since. I am now fully qualified & am a stylist with my own clients – it’s been fantastic!

Could you tell us more about the challenges you faced and how you overcame them?

The most challenging part of my apprenticeship was during covid time. We were still working, however, everyone was wearing masks and I found it hard to understand what the team or the clients were saying. This created a barrier for me but I did not give up.

I kept on going by ensuring I knew what to do if I was unsure and communicating with clients. And of course, when the lockdown lifted and people did not wear masks anymore, this has really made me so happy as I could lipread and have easier & better communication.

Can you tell me the proudest moment as an apprentice? Have there been any times that stood out for you?

The proudest moment as an apprentice is when I visited my old school to talk to deaf pupils about my career journey at Bliss and how I got to where I am today. I did a presentation for them about how I applied for the position of apprentice and how I got into contact with Nick who is a salon owner. This made me feel so confident as I did this independently, so I truly hope my talk inspired everyone to do the same – to try do things independently and learn new skills.

How do you define success as a learner? What inspires you to go above and beyond in your studies?

Success as a learner for me is the validation and acknowledgement I consistently get from my tutors. The culture at Bliss is one of feedback and we have a team Facebook group where we document and share our work. We also have to use social media as a portfolio for our hair work and looking back through this enables me to see how far I have come. We also have a culture of feedback on the salon floors and when training, along with weekly 1-1 meetings when targets are set for each week. This has kept me motivated to achieve my goals to grow in the career path at Bliss. I never stop learning because as hairdressing is part of the fashion industry, it is always changing.

The judges were impressed by your work as not only a learner but also giving back the community. Could you tell us more about this?

I organised and held a workshop with the organisation Deaf-initely Women. It’s a free workshop for deaf, deafblind, and hard-of-hearing women. My focus was how to care for and style your hair to look its best over autumn/winter. I did a talk and demonstration at Nottinghamshire Deaf Society, where I grew up as part of the community.

Many deaf women would tell me their experience going to the salon, getting their hair done and their struggles through communication. I listened and helped them with what they were struggling with about their hair and recommended haircare to give solutions to their problems. They now attend the salon as my clients because they finally feel like they have what has been missing for them communication-wise at the hairdressers and I make sure to deliver their dream hair cut or colour.

I know a big part of this is because they felt so comfortable and were able to use British Sign Language with me. This also helps to raise the awareness to everyone at the salon of how to help deaf clients when they are struggling.

How is winning the award motivated you to continue your career journey, and what do you hope to achieve?

Winning this award has given me a big boost to my confidence and it really encourages me to do more creative colouring work, which i love! It makes me feel so accomplished as every day and every client is different. It continues to make me feel so proud of myself – in hairdressing, it’s impossible to stop learning! I hope that I will be able to achieve higher levels of success in the salon using my creativity and to help more deaf people get involved.

Is there anything you’d like to add?

I’d like to say thank you to my team mates. They have been amazing these past two years and I would not be where I am without their support and I’m very grateful for that! Finally, a massive thank you to my Kleek tutor, Leona, who nominated me as apprentice of the year!