April 2013

Clive Lamb

Food for Thought | by Clive Lamb


Earn While You Learn?

Could an Apprenticeship Program be a Good Alternative to Traditional Beauty School Education?

How many people have spent $15,000 - $20,000 on beauty school, and then graduated only to be told "You need to find a salon with a good training/apprenticeship program."

Or, as one person that came to me was told by her instructor, "After you graduate, go work at Walmart for a while, build your clientele, and then find a good salon to work at."

Really? … All that debt and you need more training?

This is the state of our current educational system:

Pay or borrow tens of thousands of dollars for a beauty school education. Graduate. Then, instead of finding a decent-paying job so you can pay back your loans, you are advised to find a way to continue your training (making very little money) until you are ready to work in the real world.

No wonder such a huge percentage of beauty school graduates don't renew their licenses after the first year. They are deep in debt and lack the skills to make a decent salary as a hairdresser.

We all know that salon experience is priceless. As the saying goes: "Experience without theory is blind, but theory without experience is mere intellectual play."

School is important for the basics like sanitation, state laws and procedures, but nothing compares to the hands-on training that happens in a salon with a good apprenticeship program. It's the most valuable part of your education and in my opinion, imperative if you want to become a successful hairdresser.

What would happen if we changed the current system to one where students are trained through in-house apprenticeships and beauty school classes - at the same time?

Stay with me for a minute, close your eyes and just imagine this......

You decide you want to be a hairdresser. You check out all the salons in your area (or beyond your area if you are really ambitious). You find a salon with a great reputation and training/ apprenticeship program. You get hired and begin working in their training program and YOU ARE PAID to be there!

At that entry level, the pay would be minimum, but it would be fair for the position you have. You work four days (32 hours) at the salon, then on the fifth day you attend a nearby beauty school all day (about eight hours) to learn about sanitation, sterilization, rules and procedures. As you progress through the program and pass the in-house testing; you earn raises as you become increasingly skilled and take on more responsibility.

If the salon was truly one of the best, they might even pay for your schooling as part of your compensation package. This also opens the door for more professional work contracts in our industry. How professional would that be?

How long would this scenario take? If you worked four days per week training in the salon and attended school one day per week for two years, that's approximately 3,920 hours of combined schooling and real-life work experience.

This equals 784 hours in school and 3,136 working in the salon -- all while earning a salary! My home state of Texas only requires 1500 hours and not all of it even pertains to hair.

In this scenario, you would get 3920 hours of real-life and classroom training versus the current standard of 1500 hours of classroom training only. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see which training is better, does it?

After completing the two-year apprenticeship, you take the state board theory test and the salon gives you their in-house technical test. You pass both and are immediately qualified to take clients - without being in debt. What a concept!

Food for Thought...

As good as this idea sounds; there are people that oppose changing the current system. As former chairperson of the Texas Cosmetology Advisory Board, I proposed a house bill to get the law changed so that this could become a reality. For five years I heard the complaints from the beauty schools and their lobbyists who wanted to protect their client's revenue streams. The beauty schools would have still played a role and continued to make money.

I wasn't trying to completely get rid of the current system, but it would be nice to have a choice. It was an uphill five-year battle and in the end, the system did not change. I don't take any credit for this idea. There are similar hairdressing education programs being used throughout the world. Countries like France, Italy and my home, the UK, all implement similar programs and have produced some pretty great hairdressers, wouldn't you say?

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. Connect with Clive at Facebook.com/CliveandCo.