A talented Exeter Deaf Academy student is being hailed as a “shining example” to other Deaf young people across the UK for his mentoring of other budding Deaf hairdressers.

Award-winning Deaf barber Joel, 21, is sharing his skills as a mentor at Hair@TheAcademy, a salon at the Exeter Deaf Academy that offers hair and beauty training to disengaged adults and young people.

Joel has launched his innovative new voluntary role as he completes his successful traineeship at city centre salon, Prestige Cuts in Sidwell Street, Exeter. Deaf young people are invited to contact Hair@The Academy as Joel will be offering ‘taster’ sessions to those interested in a career in hairdressing.

Joel has achieved 100 hours of experience as a qualified junior barber and hairdresser at Prestige Cuts since graduating from Hair@TheAcademy in July 2016, where he won the award for ‘Best student barber of the year’.

Joel worked alongside Deaf and hearing students in his traineeship scheme at Hair@TheAcademy, owned by Mary Pugsley, which is based at our current site on Topsham Road, Exeter and funded by Devon County Council’s adult education service Learn Devon.

Joel also achieved a L2 barbering certificate and underpinned this with a L2 diploma in Women’s and Men’s hairdressing.

Mary said:
“Joel will be a shining example of what Deaf students can achieve with hard work and dedication. His traineeship has got him closer to work, which is exactly what we want. He now needs to build his confidence, so he will be mentoring Deaf students in our salon. Joel will also be spreading the word to young people in the Deaf community who are interested in hairdressing, including offering ‘taster’ day sessions as an introduction.”

Mary added that Joel enjoys using his talents to overcome any communication barriers he faces in his work. She said:

“Joel has got style and is very in keeping with new trends and fashions. He has great visual focus and concentrates totally upon his customers, determining the best look for their individual needs. I am extremely proud of him. He was the only Deaf student in a hearing class and he has flown. He will go far in this industry.”

Joel is looking forward to his future career. Joel said:

“My ambition is to be independent and work.I have been training with customers at Prestige Cuts, with the barbers there checking my work. They have been really supportive. I want to build up my own client base and my vision for the future is to have a barber shop of my own.”

Joel added that he has also received vital support from Vicci Wood, Workplace Link Advisor. Vicci facilitates Joel’s traineeship with Prestige Cuts’ Manager Terry and Hair @The Academy’s owner Mary. For example, Vicci ensures Joel’s Access to Work Government grant is in place, that a CSW is available and she feeds back any issues to the salon to ensure the smooth-running of Joel’s placement. 

During his placement, Joel was also supported by Communication Support Workers (CSWs) including Ben Iremonger, Tim Brigden and Fiona Drew, which Vicci helped arrange through Access to Work. “My CSWs help me overcome language barriers with hearing customers,” said Joel.

He said, “Mary and Ben has been helping me set up my own barbering business including creating business cards, advertising and social media,” he said. “I’m also self-studying online to practice new barbering techniques and trends.”


Terry Ankers, Manager at Prestige Cuts, said:

“Joel has really impressed us. He has been training in every aspect here, from haircutting to cuts with a razor, ‘shape up’ styles and maintaining the tidiness of the salon and good customer service. What we’ve noticed most is his professionalism and his friendly attitude. There’s been a sense of progress, with him becoming more confident about haircuts such as trying ‘line cuts. All of our team love him to pieces.”

To successfully achieve his qualification, Joel gained Level Two diplomas in hair and beauty, and has spent 100 hours at his salon placement. During his training, Joel, also taught “Understanding Sign” (US) which involves delivering basic British Sign Language (BSL) to hearing students. This meant hearing students who were training at Hair@The Academy alongside Joel, benefitted from becoming more Deaf aware and learnt how to overcome communication barriers when working with Deaf people at their respective work placements.

Going forward,Learn Devon are going to fund Joel’s Level 2 Customer Service qualification to complement his training. The training salon plays a key part in pioneering Exeter Deaf Academy’s ‘reverse inclusion’ approach, bringing deaf and hearing students together to learn in a space where deaf students feel supported. Deaf Academy students learn in an environment that is fully tailored to their needs; whether they are more aural or stronger in BSL they are given the chance and opportunity to flourish.

Joel recently dyed his beard pink to help fundraise for the Exeter Deaf Academy New Build Appeal because he “wanted to give something back” and to play a part in the charity’s ambitious journey towards building a new innovative Deaf Academy at the former Rolle Campus in Exmouth.

The Deaf Academy’s New Build will be a world class centre of excellence and ensure the Academy continues to develop Deaf inspiring people like Joel for generations to come.

If you are interested in being mentored by Joel or attending a taster session at Hair@TheAcademy, contact Mary Pugsley by email: mpugsley@exeterdeafacademy.ac.uk or text on: 07974 750699.

In the video below, Joel chats to Exeter Deaf Academy’s Nikki James about his experience.