Between the pandemic lockdown and states' new tendency to reduce the number of required training hours, salons are bringing on new hires who are not as well trained as in the past. These gaps affect professionals just graduating from cosmetology school as well as stylists who are reentering the industry after time away.
Effects of the Lockdown
The pandemic has impacted salons in two ways. First, the 2020 lockdown meant that a whole group of stylists missed the opportunity for in‐person, hands-on training. At least now cosmetology schools are open again, and salons are back in business.
Second, as salon owners try to maintain a safe, healthy environment for staff and guests, many are limiting the number of people in the salon at any given time, maintaining distance between clients, and establishing safety protocols. These limitations mean that owners may have to balance maintaining the business with training new hires and, in some cases, decide between the two.
It’s a lot of responsibility, commitment, time, cost, and effort to mentor and educate a new stylist who is a recent cosmetology graduate. Even stylists returning to the job after an extended break often need supervision and to “deep-dive learn” into certain subjects to ensure that they are meeting the salon owner’s standards in providing services.
For newer stylists, self‐confidence is at risk without proper leadership, which can cause a high rate of career dropout. Without adequate attention or lead staff to help them, the new hires can become frustrated and quit. High turnover creates even more problems for the salon owner. Bottom line: the salon’s overall earnings is impacted.
Changes in State Regulations
The possibility is increasing for a customer to walk into a salon and receive services from an unlicensed person. New state government regulations that significantly cut the number of training hours required to be a cosmetologist or barber are sweeping the country. California, Texas, and Vermont have already reduced the number of hours required for licensure, and other states are considering similar legislation to lower or even eliminate the hours required to get a cosmetology license.
For many years, in most states the standard was 1,600 hours required to become a cosmetologist and 1,500 hours for a barber. In 2014, Pennsylvania was one of the first states to diminish state‐required training. In 2019, Texas followed by reducing required hours to 1,000. Today, Indiana’s proposed House Bill 1364 would eliminate state licensing requirements for barbers, cosmetologists, estheticians, and nail technicians, and California’s Bill SB 803 would eliminate the hands‐on exam and reduce required training hours to 1,000 for licensure.
Some states that are reducing training hours are simultaneously developing new 600‐hour programs that train stylists in cutting and styling services only. While any additional programs are a step in the right direction, these basic-service courses ignore other highly requested services such as coloring, Balayage, color correction, and chemical straightening.
Consequences of Reduced Training
The reduced training requirements are designed to enable more workers to enter the profession, but there are unintended consequences. With inadequate training, many stylists will become frustrated in their new careers, and already struggling salons will be forced to dedicate increased staff training time to undereducated professionals.
Also serious is the risk of bodily injury. A clumsy mistake or lapse in judgment by an inadequately training professional could cause personal injury either to the client or the stylist. Tools of the trade such as shears, scissors, trimmers, and razors must be sharp for precision cutting and, therefore, can be dangerous in unskilled hands. Curling irons and hair straighteners can cause burns or scars. Strong chemicals for coloring, bleaching, straightening, or perming hair can cause hair breakage, scalp burns, severe hair damage, or allergic reactions.
As if the potential for bodily harm is not scary enough, improper training could lead to legal action in cases of hair damage or bodily harm. Lawsuits would prove more costly to the stylist or the salon owner than additional hours of education and hands‐on experience.
Filling the Training Gap
Salons are left to minimize the various risks to the industry caused by diminished training. Through their own programs, mentorship and apprenticeship, they can help to fill the gap.
In addition, virtual training has changed the way companies in many industries are training their employees, and cosmetology is no exception. Modern digital education is available to stylists with just a smart phone or iPad. Remote training ranges from webinars and zoom meetings to discussion groups and online classes. Students can benefit from watching carefully crafted videos. Add to that an exact checklist of doable actions to demonstrate, and you can train someone faster than ever. Hairstylists can access exactly what they need to learn in order to master what matters in the beginning of their career or to reenter the salon industry.
The author, Lori Fudens, is a stylist, trainer, salon owner and owner of Infinity Hair Training, a company that makes available Fudens's Hairstylist Accelerator Program to provide new hairstylists and veteran stylists who are returning to the salon with an opportunity to learn more on their own. The program's modules and checklist of actions build confidence and skill in the craft while addressing both basic and advanced techniques as well as soft skills such as planning and managing social media. The program is intended to complement any other training program the salon uses.
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