A TALENTED budding hairdresser is proving she is a cut above the rest thanks to her studies at The College Ystrad Mynach.
Rachel Hickling, 15, is studying hairdressing under the Learning Pathways scheme, which enables youngsters who may not necessarily flourish in school to learn practical skills and encourages them go on and succeed.
The Welsh Government scheme allows students to take an alternative route in their education as opposed to a more traditional school-based curriculum.
Rachel, from Machen, is learning practical, hands-on hairdressing skills four days a week at the Ystrad Mynach campus and then studies more traditional subjects like maths and English one day a week at Basseleg School in Newport.
And young Rachel, who is studying for the Diploma VRQ Level 1 Hairdressing qualification, is proving to be top of the crops after winning two first places at the Association of Hairdressers and Therapists annual competition in Blackpool.
Rachel won first prizes in both the evening style (hair up) and trendy blow-dry sections.
Rachel’s course takes one academic year and sees her in the college salon learning essential hairdressing skills and techniques as well as doing competition and client sessions and picking up customer services skills.
Martin Jones, the college’s 14-19 co-ordinator, said the Learning Pathways scheme was absolutely vital and without it, many more youngsters would fall into the NEET category – a person who is not in education, employment or training:
“To illustrate how important it is, you need to look at the numbers of students who join us, complete the courses and then stay with us to continue their studies or go to study elsewhere. That rate is around 75% which is very high. Without this sort of course, a lot would fall by the wayside.
“The staff work extremely hard to keep the youngsters engaged and the scheme is absolutely vital.”
Rachel’s course coordinator Jo Harris said: “Rachel is on Learning Pathways because she was not engaging with traditional education. I think the biggest benefit she has got from the scheme is that it has shown her she has a real talent for hairdressing.
“Winning first places in Blackpool has given her the confidence that she could actually be a hairdresser and she is beginning to believe in herself, which is lovely to see.”
Rachel, who was up against budding hairdressers from 40 colleges around the UK at Blackpool, said: “When they said I was the winner of the hair up section, I was so shocked. Then when they said I was first in the blow-dry as well, I started crying.”
Rachel, who is planning to continue at college next year and progress to the Level Two Hairdressing course, hopes to one day open her own salon.
She added: “I get excited when we get to do practical work in the college salon and work on each other’s hair. I really love hairdressing.”
Rachel was not the only student from The College Ystrad Mynach to come back from the Blackpool championships with a prize. There were first and third places in the face painting category for fellow students Jade Bishop and Chloe Brindle respectively.