Master barber Christopher (left) with a student (Phyllis Huang for BK Reader)

The 12-week barber training program provides youths aged 17-24 with instruction from a master barber as well as job placement services after graduation.

Students participating in the East NY barber training program. Photo: Phyllis Huang for BK Reader

Good Shepherd Services, a long-standing New York City-based nonprofit organization, set up shop – a barber shop – in East New York to get youths back on a professional track. The barber training is a new initiative under the organization’s Academic and Career Enrichment (ACE) program, which offers paid job trainings, internships and TASC courses, formerly known as GED classes.

“There are a lot of services of this kind in East New York, but we took the input from the community and they thought this was what they needed. That’s the reason we set it up,” said Sandra West, program coordinator for ACE.

Good Shepherd Services opened the barber training studio in January. The program, which officially launched in March and will go until June, has currently 11 students enrolled. Under the instruction of master barber Christopher Workman, the students now learn the art of cutting hair and other trade-related skills every Monday, from 10:00am to 2:00pm. Under the watchful eyes of their teacher, the students can then also practice their new skills on clients. The program and the services for the customers are free.

Master barber Christopher (left) with a student (Phyllis Huang for BK Reader)

The training is aimed at youths aged 17 to 24. Good Shepherd Services recruits the students for career training opportunities –such as the barber training — from the organization’s various mentorship programs which also includes a partnership with the New York City Department of Probation.

“Most of the students are from here [East New York], some from nearby [neighborhoods] such as Brownsville and Bed-Stuy. They don’t necessarily have to be court-involved, although some of them are,” said West. “Some young people just need to find something to do.”

After the students finish the three-month training and receive their barber’s certificates in June, Good Shepherd Services will place them in different barbershops with which the organization has already established relationships.

Sandra West (left) with potential recruits (Phyllis Huang for BK Reader)

“We also serve as the vouchers for these students,” said West. “If the employer offers an unpaid internship, we will pay these students. If later on, they have a problem with their employers, they can come back to us,” she added.

And as this first group of students is just getting started with their training, West is already interviewing candidates for the next cohort.

“A lot of the services here are not free, but we are,” said West. “Our doors are open. Anyone with a passion can come to us.”

Candidates who are interested in enrolling in the program can contact Sandra West at 718-366-7240, ext. 120 or sandra_west@goodshepherds.org.

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