Making the cut at 50

Patrick Raphael swapped bus driving for a barber shop - now he’s received a Medal for Excellence in a career that he adores

23 July 2014

In 2012 at 50 years old, and with no beauty-industry experience, Patrick Raphael enrolled on a City & Guilds hairdressing diploma at The Manchester College.

Inspired by his desire to help a close friend cope with the hair loss condition alopecia, Patrick was unsure whether he’d even make it through the first term. Fast-forward to 2014, and he’s just received a Medal for Excellence] ‘I’ve always wanted to do something that makes people feel good about themselves,’ he recalls. 

‘Alopecia had stripped my friend of her confidence so badly that she couldn’t even do her own children’s hair. I offered to help her out, and it was then that I first considered hairdressing as an option. Since 2008, Patrick had been working as a luxury coach driver in London. 

He enjoyed the work, which involved ferrying football teams to and from international matches against England. But after moving to Manchester, he decided it was time to pursue his true passion. With no qualifications to his name, the City & Guilds Level 1 introductory diploma in hair and beauty was his first serious foray into education.   

Two years on, Patrick has just completed his Level 2 City & Guilds NVQ and now has a regular placement at the Jack Edward Hair & Beauty Salon in Manchester city centre. At the in-college salon, customers often specifically request Patrick. 

‘My life has changed dramatically for the better and this Medal for Excellence is the cherry on top. It’s an achievement I can take anywhere,’ says Patrick, who was nominated for the award in October 2013 by his tutor Elaine Alton.  

‘Patrick has advanced phenomenally fast, and it’s all down to his dedicated work ethic and his thirst for knowledge,’ Elaine explains. ‘If he couldn’t master something, he worked and worked at it until he got it.’ Elaine was also impressed by his supportive attitude towards his peers. ‘He was always so positive and encouraging. He has a fantastic attitude, and now he’s producing work that’s well above his level,’ Elaine concludes.  

Following a presentation at his college in May 2014, Patrick joined dozens of other medallists at the Lion Awards, an annual ceremony recognising the best vocational talent across the country, in London on 5 June.

‘It was incredible to meet so many talented people,’ Patrick says. ‘It inspired me to strive for those same standards of excellence.’ Now, Patrick is eager to continue his education through to Level 3, with hopes of establishing a successful career as a senior stylist. The knowledge that he has been developing skills relevant to industry demands continues to fire Patrick’s motivation.

‘It’s a great confidence boost knowing that this qualification will be valued in the industry, and I feel the Lion Awards are proof of that fact,’ Patrick says. ‘Vocational training has opened a lot of doors for me and it’s actually helped me to realise my academic potential. Now I’m focused on building a career for myself and trying to be as creative as possible.’ 


Our research reveals that three quarters of young people demand skills-based training to achieve their ambitions Read full research article