When you're ready to start applying to salons, consider those with apprentice programs. These programs can be beneficial to your career for many reasons. Not only will you learn new techniques, get hands-on experience, and learn directly from professionals working in the salon, you will also get a feel for that particular salon's culture. Apprenticeships also allow you to earn some extra money while learning, and they can help you transition from school life to the workforce.

When you apply to salons, ask if they have any sort of training program. Whether you start with observing, or dive right in by doing hands-on work, the training all depends upon the salon. FIRST CHAIR asked five salons about their training/apprentice programs so you can get a sense of what to expect.

The Charles Penzone Salons
Locations: The Grand Salon in Dublin, The Grand Salon in Gahanna/New Albany, The Grand Salons at Polaris Parkway, MAX The Salon in German Village, MAX The Salon in Short North, Q Salon in Columbus (all in Ohio).

Salon Apprenticeship Programs"The Charles Penzone Salons recognize that we are only as good as the professionals behind us," say Debra and Charles Penzone, owners of the Charles Penzone Salons.

Therefore, we are extremely focused on providing our associates with exceptional educational opportunities and training. So how do they do it? Through the Charles Penzone Salons Career Advancement Program (CAP) for up-and-coming salon and spa professionals, which is accredited through the Ohio State Board.

CAP combines informative learning with practical knowledge. To advance the skill level and techniques of their associates, CAP hosts training classes taught by national talent from their product vendors, suppliers and some of their most distinguished professionals. CAP also gives their team members the tools to develop business-related skills, such as guest communication and relations, career development and professional mannerisms.

"For 12 months, the Charles Penzone associates undertake advanced education in hair cutting, color, styling and guest services. At the same time, associates apprentice for the Director and Senior Director hair professionals to gain realistic, on-the-job training," say the Penzones. "Young professionals also participate in live model nights, where they can try out all their newly learned techniques."

Metro for Men
Location: Irvine, California
Compensation structure: Level 1 Stylist (trainee) services are free; Level 2 Stylist (completed training) $37 per hair cut; Level 3 Senior Stylist (completed level 2 and benchmarks) $42 per hair cut; Level 4 Master Stylist (completed Level 3 and benchmarks) $47 per hair cut; Level 5 Technical Trainer (completed all levels) $52 per hair cut.

Salon Apprenticeship Programs

Metro for Men's training is an in-depth program that touches on three senses: hearing, seeing and touching. Specializing in men's grooming, the new-hire training program requires a 16-week, in-shop training program before new talent is allowed to work on paying guests. During the first week of their training program, new hires attend an orientation where they cover employment paperwork, marketing strategies, male client terminology, the salon's greeting ritual, shop culture, etc. In the second week of training new talent learns the more technical side of the salon (head shape, hair type, hair texture, which tool works for different hair types and textures, foundational cutting techniques, etc.).

The salon also covers color theory, color types, hair type/texture, application techniques and product knowledge. "After learning these topics, the new talent is required to perform four application techniques and are evaluated after each one," says Krista Martin, owner of Metro for Men. "From that point on, they perform their techniques on non-paying guests until they test out of each skill certifi cation by the salon's leadership panel and lead trainer."

"Our panel evaluates the new talent's technical skill, commitment to our mission, our systems, and rituals in deciding the overall score," says Martin. "If the new talent graduates to a chair, after 90 days the trainer sits down with him or her to discuss his/her ability to retain guests, product sales, upselling additional services, and whether he/she has brought in new guests on their own efforts."

Mario Tricoci Hair Salon and Day Spas
Locations: Arlington Heights; Bloomingdale; Chicago; Crystal Lake; Geneva; Hawthorne Center in Vernon Hills; Libertyville; Naperville; Oak Brook; Old Orchard in Skokie; Orland Park; Pheasant Run Resort in St. Charles; Schaumburg; Tricoci Too Fox Valley in Aurora; Tricoci Too Woodfield in Schaumburg; Tricoci Too Yorktown in Lombard; Willowbrook (all in Illinois); Leawood (Kansas location).

If you choose to work at any of the 19 Mario Tricoci Salons and Day Spas, you'll go through extra training even after graduating from cosmetology school. Why? Because these salons want their stylists and colorists to learn the Mario Tricoci Way, so you will have an easier time integrating into their salon culture.

"We hold three-hour long classes every week and every class includes a focus on guest service, retail products and cutting techniques. We think the guest service and retail portions of the training sessions are so important," says John Gialluisi, Mario Tricoci's Creative Director. Being a good stylist isn't just about knowing how to give a good haircut, it is about knowing how to take care of a guest and understanding which products will make her hair look its best. We think this structured approach to teaching guest service and retail product training sets us apart.”

As part of their guest service training, Mario Tricoci employees learn the art of consultation not just for first-time guests, but for every guest. Even the retail products they feature in each class are the only products the students use on their models that day. "We believe that our stylists need to understand how all of the products we carry interact with the hair so they can make smart decisions about what to use on their guests, says Gialluisi. Mario Tricoci salons only use live models for training so aspiring stylists can truly understand hairlines, growth and texture.

Moreover, Mario Tricoci salons have a five-phased approach to training stylists on guest service. Each week employees cover different elements on their Performance Wheel which includes everything from appearance and personality to consultation and rebooking. "Because we begin each of our classes with one of the five phases, our students will cover each multiple times during their training," says Giallusi. We think that's critical to their development as professionals.

Modern Salon and Spa
Location: Charlotte, North Carolina
Product commission: $0-$400: 5%; $401-800: 10%; $801-$1,600: 12%; $1,601- up: 15%
Compensation structure (Bi-weekly): Assistant $8/hr + $5/chemical finish blow-dry (a blow-dry after a chemical service where no hair cut was involved) + product commission, Mantra (New Talent Stylist) $7.25/hr (North Carolina State minimum wage) + product commission/tips. (*Mantra stylists get 18 more hours per week than Assistants.), Junior and Senior Stylists $0-$4,500 (40.5%) and $4,501–up (42.75%) + product commission, Senior Stylist with an Assistant 45% + product commission.

Salon Apprenticeship Programs
The education program at Modern Salon and Spa's Young Artist Program is a 30-week program consisting of six-hour classes each Monday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. These classes are partnered with the Young Artist assisting a Senior Director stylist for their full client schedule during the workweek.

"Our 30-week program consists of seven different divisions that last four to six weeks each," say Arsalan and Arezo Hafezi, owners of Modern Salon and Spa. "The seven program divisions are separated into styling, Aveda hair color, headmapping, Pureform hair cutting, hair cutting systems, men's hair cutting, and texture styling."

Upon completion of this program young artists will test out and if they pass, will enter the next stage, which is Mantra stylist and can be booked with clients of their own. "Mantra stylists work one-on-one with our director on anything they may have had challenges with during the week," say the owners. They also have bi-weekly meetings with our Education Director and manager of Hearst Tower. In these meetings Mantra stylists go over service numbers, product goals, retention, business strategies, and other topics.

Once Mantra stylists have the benchmarks they must achieve to move on (total service sales of $5,000 and product sales of $2,000) they graduate to the Junior stylist level on the salon floor. (These levels are separated into Junior 1, Junior 2, Senior 1, Senior 2, Senior 3, Senior Director and Artistic Creative Director.) "Once a stylist has reached the level of Junior or Senior stylist, we really like to focus on growing them within our company," say the owners. "Since the focus has been on basics up to this point in their career, we like to create a little more excitement by teaching advanced techniques and business strategies."

Left and below: Some of the talented staffers at Modern Salon and Spa in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Paris Parker Salons
Locations: Canal Place, Tulane, Hammond, Jefferson, Lakeside, Mall of Louisiana, Mandeville, Prytania, Perkins Rowe, LSU Studio, Magazine Studio and Hammond Square Studio (all in Louisiana).
Compensation structure: Hired at an hourly rate including tips while they are in training. Progress is closely monitored and the commission structure ranges from 40-50 percent and is based on production.

Salon Apprenticeship Programs

Paris Parker also offers a Competitive Benefits Program including employer paid health, bereavement, maternity pay, holiday pay, employer paid life, 401k match, FICA Taxes, Federal and State unemployment tax, and workers comp.

When hired, stylists enter Paris Parker's three-level education system: Level one: The Fundamentals course for new artists and interns. Level two: The Intermediate course for new artists/designers. Level three: The Advanced course for master artists.

Level one is also known as the New Artist Program. It lasts four to six months and comprises two parts: education and mentoring. "The education portion consists of one class per week in the salon (for a total of 16 classes, with a New Artist Director of Design or a New Artist Director of Color)," says Andrea Eaton, General Manager of the Paris Parker Salons. At the end of each two-day class, stylists complete a test for comprehension. For the remaining three days in that week, they work with a mentor on the service floor completing homework assignments.

The New Artists also undergo training in product knowledge, shampooing, the Aveda 12 Points of Difference, styling and finishing. Techniques learned at this level include: length, square layers, round layers and firefly/graduation as well as basic updos. (They also have a similar program for color.) After this training session is completed, New Artists are allowed to complete services at “request only” for cut and color on models. The New Artist is responsible for recruiting their own guests and must complete a total of 30 models before fully graduating the program.

Following graduation from the program, the New Artist attends the Intermediate (level two) training, learning the next four techniques in design or color. In design this includes: graduated bob, concave layers/ face framing, pixie (and disconnection) and curly. Upon evaluation by the Master Educators Team, the new artist will graduate and move on to work in the new artist salon, Paris Parker Studio, which is staffed by a rotation of Master Artists, responsible for overseeing their work.

During the Advanced level (level three), stylists take education classes once per month for eight months. Classes include: Aveda Autumn/Winter and Spring/ Summer Collection, Autumn/Winter and Spring/Summer Paris Parker Collection, New York Fashion Week Runway Styling and many other additional advanced training opportunities. "Our most advanced team members also earn an opportunity to be paid for the classes they teach," says Eaton. "For our Service Team Leaders they are eligible for yearly bonuses based on their location's profitability."

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, Click here.