Winning Ely apprentice says he found his passion the minute he picked up a set of hair clippers 

A 19-year-old barber is shocked to be chosen out of more than 1,200 entrants as a national apprentice of the year, earning praise from the Education Secretary.

Joshua Reed is dyslexic and struggled at school, but said the minute he picked up a pair of clippers at Milan Barber Shop in Ely, it was like he found himself.

Now, he has been named Intermediate Apprentice of the Year Award for the Eastern Region. He goes through to national finals in November.

“Not everyone is academic, not everyone is good at English, maths or science,” he said.

“I was always creative, so finding what I was good at with my artistic side and passion, through barbering, is amazing.

“It’s so much more than a job. Customers come in and tell us their life stories, their problems, their worries. They probably offload to us more than they would to friends and family.

“We cut hair, we listen, we chat. It is like a counselling service at the same time. There is also plenty of banter. It’s a total man cave! I love being part of it.”

Joshua had been having his hair cut at Milan Barber’s since he was 11 years old and began as an apprentice there in conjunction with Cambridge Regional College, in 2016.

Now, he is like a member of the extended Italian family, which runs the fourth-generation barber shop where he works - founded by father and son team Tony and Chris Milan.

Joshua said: “Cuts nowadays are detailed, sharp and intricate. My favourite is the skin fade, it’s hard to do, but there is a sense of satisfaction watching a customer walk out with a great hair cut!

“I can’t thank Tony, Chris, family and Cambridge Regional College enough for supporting me all the way on this.”

Chris, who plans to take on two more apprentices soon, said:

“I am really proud of Josh. Of all the people I have worked with, he has the most passion for the trade – other than my Dad Tony who is a Barbering Legend. 

“Joshua goes home and watches barbering You Tube videos, reads magazine articles. He can’t get enough of learning. He is a credit to himself and the industry.”


Tony, 78, who has helped train Joshua, began his career when he followed in his father’s footsteps barbering in Italy at the age of just 11, when he stood on a box to be tall enough to shave.

He came to England in the 1960s and worked two jobs to raise enough money to open a barbering shop in London, before moving to Cambridgeshire in the 1990s where he opened up a unisex salon, called Tony’s Hair Fashion, in Sutton. He also ran a Barbershop in Market Street, Ely called Tony’s Barber Shop. This shop is currently now run by his eldest son Jason Milan.

Tony said: “Joshua has passion and that is what counts in life. He will go far. He works fast and does a great job. He is like one of the family.”

Joshua will now go forward to the national finals in November.

Gavin Williamson 100x100Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said:

“The National Apprenticeships Awards are a great opportunity to showcase the fantastic apprenticeship programmes available across the country and the amazing apprentices working in a range of exciting professions.

“Apprenticeships change lives, improve businesses and support local communities, so it’s great to see such a diverse range of employers and apprentices being recognised for their great work.”

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