Old-time barber skills to put trainees a cut above

Call it cutting edge if you will, but a “hair-brained” scheme is allowing Port Elizabeth youth to benefit from training in ageold hairdressing and barber skills while getting a discounted trim at the same time.
Johan Senekal, 68, of Roux’s Barber, has moved shop to the Ray Mhlaba Skills Training Centre – an extension programme of the Eastern Province Children’s Home – to unclip a new training programme for the centre’s youth.
Senekal’s move from Sydenham promises to reap positive rewards as he seeks to maintain dwindling classic barbering skills, using equipment from his barber father dating back to the 1940s, including vintage swivelling chairs and a straight-edge barber razor.
“I took the opportunity because I want to give back to the children’s home as a business but in a sustainable way – giving discounted haircuts is good but it does not impart any skills,” Senekal said.
He said he is confident his programme – starting early in November – will give the youth a competitive edge as it offers a holistic approach.
“I know that it [the content] will be good enough because it is not only about cutting – there is knowledge on hairstyles, use of tools and even looking at skin defects so that they [trainees] can have the best information on hair,” Senekal said.
“Because it is a new programme I can only pilot [it] with one person at a time but I will increase the number of people as time progresses.
“It is difficult to train more than one person at once because they have to be physically involved in the cutting process,” he said.
Asked if he was not scared the move would deter some of his existing customers, he said he was not worried because 350 regular customers reassured him that, wherever he moved, they would not stop coming to him for haircuts.
While Senekal spoke to The Herald, an 11-year-old customer tested out the newly opened salon.
He said it was the best haircut he had ever had.
EP Children’s Home project director Caroline Ferreira said the programme was in line with the centre’s directive of giving youth from disadvantaged backgrounds an opportunity to acquire skills enabling them to participate in the economy.
“We will benefit from this partnership because the programme forms part of our youth training which seeks to give an opportunity to the youth to gain a qualification so they can get employment in the formal sector.
“Our children’s home will benefit from [the] in-house barber as we will be cutting down on transport costs and the fees for cutting hair as [he] is on our premises and will be giving our children a discount,” she said.
Senekal will be paying rent by offering discounted cuts to 40 young boys from the home and providing the youth training programme for the centre.
It will become the 11th Seta-accredited and entrepreneurial training programme offered by the centre for the 182 youths, which include hospitality studies and accommodation services.
The 20-week, 800-hour training comprises practical, theoretical and visual elements including hair-cutting techniques, cutting men’s hair, client preparation and elements of hygiene...

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