The decision to switch careers and become a barber was a long time in the making for Joel.
"For about three years it had just been sitting in the back of my head. I had a chat with my parents and my partner and I said, 'I think I'm going to give this a go'. They said, 'We've got your back' and it was really good to have that," Joel said.
But as much as Joel was looking forward to his new career, the thought of going back to study for the first time in 15 years wasn't as appealing.
"I was never the best student at school, but TAFE was different and that made it a lot easier for me. With the flexibility that TAFE Queensland provided for me I found that I was able to meet deadlines, I was helped with study anytime I needed it, and all my questions were answered," he said.
Joel also found that the teachers and learning environment at TAFE were very different to what he'd experienced at school.
"The teaching staff at TAFE Queensland were excellent — they don't want to be a disciplinarian, they just want to be someone that you work with, and a friend. They were able to have a chat with me and approached it like I was an adult. It's the best experience I've had in education by far," he said.
Joel was also surprised by how practical and hands-on his TAFE course was, right from the very beginning.
"The first hour I turned up and the teacher said, 'Right, you're going to learn how to shave.' So I had to start shaving someone with a cut-throat razor on the first day," he said.
While he was busy learning the tricks of the trade, Joel had access to industry-standard tools and equipment.
"The facilities at TAFE Queensland were excellent. Full-size barber chairs so you can really learn how to cut hair around that. We had all the tools we needed — razors, clippers, scissors — everything was fully supplied," he said.
It's no surprise that Joel's practical training helped him gain a position as a senior barber before he even finished his studies.
"I started out doing work experience and then after a couple of weeks the owner had a chat with me said, 'I'd like to put you on,' so I was able to move into the workforce quite rapidly," he said.
For Joel, one of the best things about being a barber is the relationships he develops with his clients.
"Some of the older gentlemen that come into the shop, I find they're quite characters and you can learn a lot from them. They've been getting their hair cut for probably 50 years, or longer even, so they certainly know what they want and they know when it's done right. It's really helped me fine-tune what I'm doing," he said.
Joel also values being able to make a small but meaningful impact on the lives of his clients.
"I've found that working in this industry I've been able to really help people. You can sort of tell if they're not doing very well. They might come in looking a bit scruffy and then I'm able to help them get themselves a little bit back on track. I'm not saving their life or anything, but I find if they look good, they're probably going to feel just that little bit better," he said.
In his short time in the industry, Joel's career highlight was the day he realised how far he'd come, and how much his skills had developed.
"I had a morning where I had to work by myself and I ended up cutting 20 people's hair in four hours. To cut five heads of hair in an hour, that's quite fast. That's when I sort of looked at it and thought, I'm getting good, I'm starting to develop where I want to be," he said
Now that Joel's nearing the end of his studies, he's confident he's found his purpose in life.
"The first time I got behind a barber chair I said, 'This is what I'm going to be doing for the rest of my life.' Getting up every day and wanting to go to work and do something that I'm passionate about has been really very beneficial to me," he said.
For anyone else thinking of making a career change, Joel's advice is to be brave and have an open mind.
"If you love your job it's going to be easy. When you start to learn you've just got to listen and have a completely open mind — then you can succeed and do anything you want."