UCOL Te Pūkenga Barbering lecturer, Mel Woodmass, found her calling in hairdressing and barbering when she was just 10 years old. Four decades on, she’s still loving it and is now passing her skills on to the next generation at UCOL.
"When I was a kid my aunty always joked that she was going to cut my hair off at the dinner table because my hair was too long. The inevitable thing happened one day - she grabbed my hair and a pair of scissors and actually cut it off!
"My cousin sent me through my very first salon experience, and from then on, I realised that was the career path I wanted."
Mel's passion for hairdressing and barbering took off and by 21, she had already purchased her own salon, 'CHAIRS', which she owned for 23 years in Ōtaki.
Mel says she loves being able to pass her skills down to the next generation of barbers.
"I started tutoring in hairdressing and barbering while I was still running the salon. I came to UCOL about two years ago to start teaching
U-Skills part-time and I'm starting full-time in 2024 teaching the
Level 4 Barbering programme.
"I've really enjoyed teaching and I want to make sure this
programme is really exciting and gives ākonga (learners) the skills they need to upskill or kickstart their career."
The programme is designed to take their barbering skills from backyard haircuts to the next level, says Mel.
"A lot of ākonga that I teach already have some experience using the clippers. Many people can do a fade, but many cannot blend the haircut through.
programme will offer them a refined knowledge and skill set, and focus on a lot more cutting skills, as well as beard and hair styling, which uses a variety of hair products. Ākonga will also learn valuable customer service skills. This is what the barbering industry is asking for."
Mel says the most satisfying part of her role is helping her ākonga succeed and be the best they can be.
"From when they start out to when they finish, I love seeing my ākonga achieve and get better at what they do. It's what excites me most about my role at UCOL. I was so happy to see one of my ākonga get the top award for U-Skills this year as the Most Outstanding Student. That was really amazing!
"I've trained many barbers around the region and I am really well connected within the industry, so I'm also able to assist my ākonga in finding jobs in barber shops, too."
For people considering a career in barbering, Mel says UCOL is a great place to start.
"We have a sensational plan for ākonga to get through! Level 4 Barbering is a wonderful course and it's the first time UCOL has offered it full-time.
"Especially for those who are already in barbershops, this year-long course is a great opportunity to get their qualification while they're working in the industry and using a portfolio of their own work."