Grass-roots Effort Stops Bill To Reduce Required School Hours In Texas
Ask a recent cosmetology school grad how they felt entering the workforce for the first time. Chances are, they’ll say they were nervous about working with real clients or felt anxious that their technical and soft skills weren’t quite up to speed.
Now, imagine how that graduate would feel if all the practice they gained on the salon floor in school was eliminated from their cosmetology education. Valuable clinic experience would be lost, making students less prepared for working in a salon. And, equally detrimental to salons, new artists would require more training to be client-ready—at the salon’s expense.
Last spring in Texas, cosmetology schools were in danger of having their required hours cut down to 1,000 hours, leaving students with significantly less time on the salon floor.
Why Texas? Why Now?
Deregulation has been a threat to the beauty industry for several years, and there are some who believe there shouldn’t be a minimum amount of required hours for cosmetology school at all.
To combat this, the Professional Beauty Association (PBA), helped form the Future of the Beauty Industry Coalition (FBIC) to represent students, owners, manufacturers, distributors and schools. The FBIC has several initiatives to avoid deregulation, and in an effort to prevent complete deregulation, they decided on an hours reduction to 1,000.
Currently, required hours vary state by state, ranging from 1,000 to 2,300, with 35 states at the top of the bell curve requiring 1,500-1,600 hours.
“There is a real movement at the state and federal level to end occupational licensing,” Myra Irizarry Reddy, Government Affairs Director for PBA says. “We are supporting streamlining the requirements in an effort to protect the license.”
But not everyone agrees that streamlining is the answer. Neill Corporation supplies salons and schools across the southeast U.S., and sees a reduction in hours as a threat to the quality of stylist that graduates from cosmetology school.
“If you look at a 1,000-hour program, it allows you to train on mannequin heads and prepare for the state board test,” says Edwin Neill, President, Neill Corporation. “You don’t learn about the real world of being a hairdresser, and students need both technical and soft skills to be successful.”
Neill likens the experience to doctors doing a residency or internship.
“That’s how doctors learn to deal with the live human being they work with day after day—it’s the same for hairdressers.”
To reduce a program from 1,500 hours to 1,000 is a drastic move from both the student and the salon owner perspective. The student will need much more training when they come out of school and the salon is burdened with that additional training.
“A big chain salon may have that training in place for new hires,” Neill says. “But for a small, independent salon owner—that’s a big burden.”
But for large, chain salons, moving stylists through the school system more quickly is beneficial, which is why some chain salon owners and the entire FBIC supported the 1,000-hours bill in Texas (House Bill 2407).
Reddy points out that both independent salon owners and salon chains from different states with varying hour requirements have shared that they still must train new hires to conform to their salon’s standards.
David vs. Goliath
On February 24, 2017, HB 2407, also known as the 1,000-hours bill, was put before the Texas Commerce Commission. Texas legislators only meet once every other year to vote on bills, so simply getting the bill out of committee and onto the floor for a vote would be a challenge.
However, the bill had powerful backers like the PBA and national chain salons.
Jessica McCarthy, Area Sales Manager for Neill Corporation says, “Most people didn’t know this bill existed. When it came up, nobody knew what was happening, so we had to let people know about it.”
An effort formed to get the word out—across brand lines and with other cosmetology schools—a grass-roots movement formed. Aveda, Paul Mitchell, Texas’ Ogle Schools and the Aveda Institutes South joined forces. Soon, along with concerned Texas salons, they were educating others.
John Blair of the Ogle Schools was instrumental in leading the Texas Coalition. Watch his video here.
Neill Corporation blasted out emails to their customer base with printable letters, links to the bill, an explanation of what it meant, what it would cost the salon owner and what a salon’s training program would need to include if students came out with a third less education.
Knowing this was bigger than their brand alone, Neill’s Territory Managers (TMs) took fliers into salons that were not their customers, along with a letter for the owner to sign.
“We asked owners if they knew what was happening in the industry, and how it would affect them,” McCarthy says. “If they wanted to sign the letter, we took it with us to bring to the hearing. We had one set printed for each house member and each clerk.”
With the conversation started among Texas salons and owners educated on how they would be affected, a team of lobbyists and business owners amassed to speak at the hearing.
William Edge Salon owner William Turner addressed the additional training students would need from salons upon graduation. Paul Mitchell Schools owner John Turnage rallied educators and students to testify. Other owners, community college instructors, and lobbyists also presented facts and figures to support more education.
McCarthy also spoke, and laid out a passionate case for maintaining 1,500 hours.
“I focused on what it would mean for the Texas economy,” she says.
“Less education is not better.”
“We want viable jobs for people, so people can build careers and support their families.”
But the other side also had lobbyists, stylists, and chain salon owners presenting a strong case for their point of view.
“The 1,000-hour curriculum does not reduce the amount of education,” Reddy says. “It is provided in a different format that adheres to Milady and Pivot Point outlines for their textbooks.”
But in the end, the Texas Coalition’s joint efforts helped stop the bill.
“While the bill was not dismissed, it did get killed at the last minute,” McCarthy says. “The awareness and grass-roots activism helped stop it from making it to the floor for a vote,” she adds.
Although they prevailed in maintaining current cosmetology education standards, Neill and McCarthy say this is far from over.
“We anticipate going through it all again in 2019 when the Texas Commerce Commission meets again,” McCarthy says.
Owners and stylists can help now though—especially those in Texas.
“They need to educate themselves about the bill and think about who is sitting in their chair,” McCarthy says.
“Local legislators, their wives, their staff members—they all sit in stylists’ chairs.”
“Owners should be having a conversation with their team members to understand how fragile and special this issue is.”
Neill adds, “I think adopting a uniform number of hours nationwide makes sense. But 1,000 hours is not producing the same level of graduate. It should be 1,500 like the majority.”
“We also need continuing education for stylists,” he adds. “The profession should be respected, and lowering standards and expectations is lowering the profession. Reducing the number of hours to graduate is not elevating the industry.”