‘The best part is you earn while you learn’

How I did it: Evelyn Loftus completed the Peter Mark hairdressing apprenticeship

I was unsure, like every young 17 year old about what it was I wanted to do. I always enjoyed school and I was quite intellectual, but I always felt I was a bit more creative than the average fare.

I had signed up to attend Waterford IT and Carlow IT to do different kinds of college courses, but deep down I always kind of knew I wanted to be a hairdresser.

While I was doing my CAO, I sent off my CV to Peter Mark through an online portal. I did that and the day I got my Leaving Cert results, I got a call from Peter Mark asking if I wanted to do an interview. Obviously, I was buzzing.

I went to the interview and ended up getting the job. I started my apprenticeship at 17 after my Leaving Cert.


The usual Irish mammy was telling me to do the CAO and go to college. She was worried that I would need to go to college, because it’s kind of ingrained in Irish people, but the way I looked at it was I was 17 years of age, the apprenticeship contract was for four years, so I would be 21 when I finished it. So, I decided if I needed to go back to college and do something, I still had plenty of time to do it. Obviously now I’m delighted I took the path I did.

Everyone takes different time, depending on your abilities and progression to qualify. I qualified within three years. The apprenticeship is hands-on, five-days-a-week work. It is a little bit different from school because you’re doing a bit longer hours. You’re doing 37.5 hours per week.

You do on-the-floor training every day and at the weekend then you have modules that you complete in classes that are overseen by your trainer.

Hands-on work

Once you complete a certain number of tasks, you go up to the Peter Mark college to get examined. The difference between an apprenticeship and going to college to do hairdressing is that it is 100 per cent hands-on practical every day. You’re learning each hour you’re at work. You’re not just going to sweep the floor.

Every time you complete and pass an exam, you’re allowed to complete those tasks on the floor. People are actually paying you from day one.

It gives a young person that responsibility to know that I’m not just here to coast. People are paying for my service, so it has to be good enough.

That was the difference for me with the apprenticeship: you were getting responsibility throughout. By the end, you’re not just thrown in the darkness and told to go be a hairdresser. You’re learning step by step. Your practical abilities build every week and month. By the end of it, you’re a hairdresser.

I’m a manager now. When I first qualified, I became a trainer in the salon, training the younger apprentices. I became a colour degree specialist and then I went on and did manager training. I’ve been a manager now for seven years.

I speak to people who went to college and they’re doing nothing to do with their degree, they’re doing office jobs. Every day is a little mundane, whereas, as a hairdresser, no two days are ever the same. You can specialise in cutting, colouring, upstyling, extensions; it’s not just one size fits all because it’s such a creative industry. There are so many avenues.

And the best part is you earn while you learn. - Shauna Bowers