August 2012

Clive Lamb

Food for Thought | by Clive Lamb


Ivy League Beauty Schools?

There are beauty schools in my area that charge about $20,000 for an education, yet the average hairdresser in the U.S. earns between $26,000-$28,000/year.

That's a very expensive education for such a small return.

One of the local beauty schools in my area also owns multiple salons. When they hire one of their own graduates (who have just paid the school thousands of dollars for an education) they are hired as a trainee and paid minimum wage.

Beyond that, it's what's being taught (and likewise, what's NOT being taught) that simply baffles me. In my 25 years of being a salon-owner, I've never seen a graduating student, from any school, that could blow-dry to an acceptable standard. I recently hired a former instructor from one of these schools -- and, you guessed it -- we had to teach them how to blow-dry.

As I see it, there is a huge problem with the way beauty schools are currently operating.

Who controls them and decides what is being taught? And are they qualified to do so? Currently, the State government does. They dictate what should be taught, and how long students need to go to school. Each school must teach whatever the State says, so the qualification really is a State qualification, not a qualification from a specific school. The problem with that is -- all the schools are basically teaching the same stuff, whatever each State mandates.

So how can you differentiate a good school from a bad one? The way it stands now, the only real difference in schools is the price. Every student walks out with the same piece of paper -- with the State's name on it.

Let's compare that to a traditional college degree. Everyone knows that a degree from Harvard costs more, but is also worth more than a degree from your local community college. Why? Because Harvard doesn't teach students just enough to pass a test or to simply get a diploma from Harvard. They prepare their students for success in the real world.

They teach what THEY think is necessary to get top-notch results. The proof is the success of their students, just as it is for other Ivy League schools.

So, who are the Ivy Leaguers in our industry and which schools do we line up to recruit from? It's impossible to know, as most schools don't do much more than prepare their students to pass a state test to get a license. Wouldn't it make more sense to educate like a traditional college/university does?

What if there were Ivy League beauty schools? These schools could teach what they individually think is best to ensure their students are successful in the real world the minute they graduate.

Their reputation (and survival) would depend solely on their graduates' success. If their graduates are top-notch, they will get the top-notch jobs and the school will attract highly creative, motivated and passionate students. It's simple business acumen that quality will rise to the top.

Alternately, schools with poor performance might close because what they're teaching simply isn't relevant anymore and they cannot attract students. This would weed out the beauty schools who are only out there to make a buck.

The Ivy League beauty schools would also attract the most talented and creative hairdressers who have passion for teaching and who can inspire with fresh, new ideas and current trends. Better teachers equals better trained graduates.

Let's take it a step further. What if these Ivy League beauty schools sent their students to market-leading salons for some real-life work experience? WOW- what a concept, right?

Colleges and universities have been doing this for years - it's called an internship. Currently, most beauty school students work in the school's salon, making even more money for the school owner, who they are already paying to be there in the first place. I'm still trying to figure out how they get away with that one -- sounds a bit like forced labor to me.

I'm not pointing fingers at the schools, their owners or even the government.

It's my opinion that our current education system is flawed, outdated and needs to change. It needs to better prepare students. Doing so will increase professionalism, creativity and income, benefiting everyone in our profession.

How many people from your graduating class are still doing hair? Better still, how many are still in the industry three years after graduating? And how many have defaulted or are behind on their loans?

Just food for thought. Apprenticeships anyone?

Clive Lamb owns and operates Clive and Co., a modern, thriving salon based in Dallas, Texas. In addition, Clive was appointed Chairman of the Texas Cosmetology Advisory Board in 2006, a position he held for five years. Clive has over 30 years of international exposure to the vast and constantly evolving hairdressing industry.