It’s Never Too Late To Learn Hairdressing and Debbie O’Brien tells us why. Debbie first came to College in 1997 when she was 24, however she left to get married and have children. She came back to education 3 years ago, is now working in the hairdressing industry and has never been happier. Here is Debbie’s story.
What made you choose this point in your life to come to college?
I was ready for a change in my life and to work towards my career. I’ve always looked at hairdressing as a way of giving something back. Your mood just completely lifts when you get hair done and it’s a great feeling.
What worries did you have about returning to education?
I was absolutely terrified. I was worried about having to use computers again but I became more confident over the years – I now even have my own MacBook! I felt that the younger students were more confident than me, which was overwhelming. At the beginning, I felt that I should know all the answers because I’m older. It was a nice realisation that it’s actually okay to ask if you don’t know something.
Tell me about your learning experience.
There are core skills involved, which I was scared of at first but grew to love, including maths. I ended up sitting at home on a Saturday night studying maths because I was so interested in it, and I enjoyed learning. It opened my eyes and made my brain more active.
There are computer elements involved, from creating PowerPoint presentations and creating Word documents. We create a portfolio on each unit studied. Portfolios are the first thing that employers ask for, and I feel it’s a brilliant thing to have as it can always be updated as you progress. There are also online assessments on areas such as cutting, style, dress and finish as well as long hair design.
What have you enjoyed the most?
I definitely enjoy doing gents hair the most. I enjoy everything about it from cutting and blow-drying to colouring and styling.
What has been challenging?
I was much less confident with the long hair design, I didn’t feel creative enough in this area. I actually won a competition for long hair design and was invited down to Blackpool for the nationals, so I can’t be that bad! The competition was a great experience and I felt very invited into the industry. It was so inspirational to see everyone’s work. It definitely pushed my creativity and helped to build my confidence.
As well as this, I struggled with technology and adapting to the new changes since I last studied. I also found it difficult to juggle my work and study as well as being a single mother of two.
What support have you accessed (if any)? and how has this helped you?
I accessed Inclusive Learning within the campus. They were amazing at just breaking things down for me and making the work so much easier. Whether it was helping me create a study plan, or spending half an hour with me on a computer one day, I always felt I had somewhere to go if I needed help. All of the lecturers also went out their way to help and I can’t thank them enough.
Any advice to other adults thinking about returning to education?
Just do it and don’t think about it. If you don’t like it, what do you have to lose? You definitely get out what you put into it. It’s actually quite nice to have an older, mature student within the class.
Are you glad you came to College?
So much has changed in my life and it’s incredible. I now have a structure and a routine, and I’ve opened doors to new career opportunities. I won a Shining Star Award at the end of my course and I received a certificate, a medal and a trophy. This was a truly amazing feeling. What an emotional journey it has been from the beginning to the end.
What are you going to do next / what are your plans for the future?
I’m currently working in a barbers and I’m going to continue that over the summer. Ayrshire College is considering creating a barbering course to start in August which I am really excited about. If that goes ahead, I plan to study that while working. I’m currently cutting hair at 14 minutes and I aim to get to 8mins over the summer. I plan to open my own barbers in the future, and create more jobs for other hairdressers. I see a great opportunity for men’s hairdressing to develop in the next few years and that is something I want to be a part of.