I was always good with hair, and now I’m fully qualified

Published on : 3/6/23
  • Sodexo has launched Starting Fresh, a campaign to encourage and provide guidance to businesses on proactively hiring ex-offenders. To support this activity, Emily was generous enough to share her own experience of gaining skills in prison which have led to a new career after release.

    Even when I worked for a luxury car brand, friends would beg me to do their hair. I’d been doing my family’s for years, and even looked into the training, but it was so expensive. Now, I do it professionally and I love it. I’m a mobile stylist with a solid client base, doing cut and colour for all hair types.

    I went to prison because I made some bad choices while in an abusive relationship. I regret those choices every day. But I’ve always been a hard worker, and that bit of me didn’t switch off when I went inside. So, when I came to HMP Bronzefield, I spotted the hairdressing course straight away. 

    The opportunities in Bronzefield changed my life.

    As well as the Aurora domestic abuse course, which helped me move forward, I completed my NVQ Level 1 in Gym, then my NVQ Level 1 in Hairdressing. The salon there is fully kitted-out, and I learnt alongside two other ladies who had a real flair for it. 

    To work in a salon, you need NVQ Level 2, so our trainers Kim and Rachel pushed hard to be able to deliver that course for us. It’s the same qualification every hairdresser gets, so we had external assessors come in and check we made the grade. Passing it meant I got to work in a salon when I was released on temporary licence. I was there full time for nine months, and it really boosted my confidence. 

    I had to leave the salon when I moved to a resettlement prison. There weren’t any hairdressing opportunities nearby, but I couldn’t sit about, so I volunteered with the Kenward Trust which does amazing work with young people. I then got a paid position with the photo printing company, Max Spielmann, who found me a role in a different branch when I was released.  

    Sadly, the impact of Covid-19 meant some of us were made redundant. It was a real blow, but then thousands of people across the country were in the same boat. It did mean I could focus my energy on building up my hair business, plus I now do some delivery driving in the evenings. 

    I’m recovering from surgery at the moment and supposed to be taking it easy. But it’s just not in my nature, so I have to keep telling myself, “Don’t do that now, Emily.”  

    Some employers might assume that people with convictions are lazy or unreliable. I’m neither, but I totally get it; I probably assumed the same.

    Who I actually met was a bunch of talented, driven and well-educated women who would otherwise be perfect candidates. Household names like Timpsons, Sainsbury’s and the Co-op have all hired people with convictions for ages, and they’re hugely successful businesses. They know there’s value in giving people a chance to prove their worth.

    Whether you want to visit a prison to see the skills training in action, organise an employer day to recruit a number of people - you can find out more about Starting Fresh here.