Continuing from our discussion in The Industry’s Education Situation, let’s address the issues schools face and how we can mitigate or eliminate those issues altogether.


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Issue 1: Defining Practical Clinical Experience and Compensable Labor

Schools lose in court when they aren’t able to sufficiently prove that the tasks they’re having students perform are a necessary part of the education. If they can prove the students were only performing tasks required by the state board, they will prevail—the way the massage school did. (Supervision or no, the students were performing legally required clinic hours while an instructor was on the premises.)

Salon chores—clearing hair clogs out of shampoo sinks, mopping floors, and scrubbing toilets—are not part of any state board’s practical education requirements.

With that considered, we can easily draw a line between what constitutes practical and necessary parts of practice that should be included in a professional’s clinical education and what can only be described as compensable labor.

Reasonable: Expecting students to sweep hair after a cut.
Unreasonable: Expecting students to mop the floor.

Reasonable: Expecting students to disinfect their tools.
Unreasonable: Expecting students to scrub the toilets.

Reasonable: Expecting students to clean the shampoo bowl after rinsing out chemicals.
Unreasonable: Expecting students to disassemble the piping to remove hair clogs. (Which I have done as a student.)

Reasonable: Expecting students to keep their station drawers free of dirt and debris as required by state board regulations.
Unreasonable: Expecting students to count, dust, front, and stock retail inventory.

There’s a difference between sweeping the area around your station immediately after a service to keep a client from slipping (in compliance with regulations) versus scrubbing the school’s toilets. One is part of the service that state boards require of practicing professionals; the other is janitorial work that has absolutely nothing to do with the service. Schools can justify teaching and requiring state board compliance; they cannot use the students as unpaid janitors.

Issue 2: Clarifying the Scope of a Technical Program

As an industry, we need to agree on the role of our learning institutions. We’re placing some really unrealistic expectations on trade schools when we say things like, “Schools have to prepare you for the salon.”

Schools are responsible for ensuring their graduates can safely and competently perform the services their license authorizes them to perform.

Anything outside of technical education falls outside of the scope of a technical school and constitutes a waste of valuable instructive time. Schools aren’t responsible for producing professionals who know how to work reception, take inventory, and clean our salons. After all, they’re not licensing them to be receptionists, retail workers, or our cleaning crew. Students are being licensed as salon professionals and will be seeking employment as service providers. As salon owners and managers, we are responsible for communicating our expectations and training our employees. We are responsible for developing our talent.

To expect trade school educators to do our jobs for us is absolutely ludicrous.

Issue 3: Establishing Prohibitions and Enforcement Standards

I sincerely believe school owners (including those at Douglas J) had no malice in requiring their students to do menial salon work. Most facilities operate their clinic floor like a functional salon in every way. This seems very much like another instance of “monkey see; monkey do.” Every time one of these cases makes headlines, about half of the professionals involved in the discussion comment that their schools required them to do the same.

Our state boards will need to specifically prohibit schools from requiring students to perform menial chores during instructive time and assign penalties to those who do.

Many state boards have defined the scope of a cosmetology education so it shouldn’t require much time or effort to enact a common-sense prohibition against unrelated labor, but it will require professionals to organize and collaborate, to help their state board members determine a suitable course of action.

Nothing happens without your involvement.


In Part 3: The Industry’s Education Reconfiguration, we’ll talk about alternatives to the current education methods and how those alternatives might help eliminate the deregulation arguments entirely. For now, what do you think? Do you have any ideas or strategies for improving our schools?

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Beauty industry survivalist, salon crisis interventionist, tactical verb-weapon specialist, and the leader of at least a hundred workplace revolutions, Tina Alberino is known as much for her extensive knowledge as for her sarcastic wit and mercilessly straightforward style. She’s the author of the book The Beauty Industry Survival Guide and the blog This Ugly Beauty Business. When she’s not writing, educating, or consulting, she can be found overthinking everything, identifying problems people didn’t know existed, and stubbornly working to change the things she cannot accept.

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