This past year has seen big changes here at The Nailscape. I launched The Nailscape Box, and have ramped up my presence at industry shows to teach marketing, social media, and session work skills with my nail friends. Throughout the past couple of years since I became more involved with the industry and worked with more professionals who aren’t nail techs, I’ve noticed some common threads. where are nail techs find nail technicians hire hiring candidates
You know that saying that stereotypes exist for a reason? I’ve seen that and more in my travels around the pro beauty industry. In addition to nail technicians being one of the most misunderstood disciplines in the beauty industry, I’ve seen what amounts to a self-fulfilling prophecy. The attitude about nail techs isn’t that we are failed hair stylists or the stepchild of the beauty industry – it’s worse. There isn’t a lot of understanding about who we are, why we do what we do, and what value we bring to the table. And unfortunately, many don’t want to put in the effort required to understand us.
In my attempts to bring more nail education and improvement to a trade show, I’m often met with the comment that the numbers don’t warrant the effort. I’m quoted the number of licensed techs in a state versus how many live near a larger show. I’m told “we’ve offered that before and nail techs just don’t seem to want it.” It becomes a “if you build it, they will come” scenario, and unfortunately many associations and shows can’t (or won’t) afford to be able to spend to build new programs without a guaranteed return on their investment. Leadership pushes back and says things like “well, our partner salon systems can’t seem to keep their nail departments staffed,” and “where are all the nail techs?”
If you want to know where the nail techs are, I’ll tell you.
We are one of the most unlicensed beauty disciplines in the country. Tired of being made to accept less than desirable working conditions, many of us have gone underground; performing services in unlicensed places like our homes. We let our licenses lapse because we can’t afford the time nor the expense to take required CE classes. Or worse, we don’t officially become nail technicians because our circumstances or our wallets won’t let us.
If we want to change the industry in a meaningful way, we have to start removing the barriers to entry. We have to make this profession more accessible to those who want to make a career in beauty a reality, while holding up a career in nails as a viable means to make a living. where are nail techs find nail technicians hire hiring candidates
Now, I bet this is where you’ll expect me to rail against licensing as the main barrier to entry, and that we should just do away with licensing entirely. Well, you’re about to be disappointed. I believe in licensing in the US. I believe in sensible regulation and the public safeguards that licensing upholds. where are nail techs find nail technicians hire hiring candidates
You can find plenty of pro-dereguation arguments across the web, so I’m not going to bore you nor dignify those arguments by summarizing them here. Instead, I’ll explain why I feel that having a license is so important.
First, it’s a way to ensure that our industry moves forward, not back. It protects the pricing we have in place now, and makes it possible for us to raise our prices even higher. If you’re charging $85 for a full set of gel enhancements, and suddenly just anyone can do nails, how will you compete with Karen in her kitchen offering full sets for $15? Those who are pro-deregulation will say that consumers will seek out those who are more skilled. Please. Clients don’t even regularly seek out clean salons, let alone put in the leg work to find a qualified tech in order to pay them more. Let’s be real. Or, consumers expect a minimal standard since licensing exists in the first place, and assume they’re being protected.
Second, it safeguards public health. If there was no licensing, then who would enforce and inspect salons to ensure they meet state sanitation standards? If our states can’t afford enough inspectors to police the salons that exist now, under a system that charges a licensing fee, how can they ever afford to inspect the literal boon of salons that will pop up once anyone can do nails?
If we want a system that enforces the rules, we should want a system that teaches them and checks for understanding in the first place.
The current system is broken, and we need real change to fix it. When I was shopping for a nail school in 2012, I had specific needs. I wanted a nails-only school since I couldn’t afford a cosmetology program. I had a full time job, so I needed to find a school that would allow me to attend part time. I already had a Bachelor’s degree, so I wouldn’t qualify for any Federal financial aid, so it needed to be affordable. I was fortunate enough to have some savings, so the $2,500 tuition was within the realm of possibility. In Illinois, the program is 350 hours, so it took me from November 2012 to April 2013 to complete the hours, attending on weekends and days off of work. where are nail techs find nail technicians hire hiring candidates
As an exercise, I looked into nail schooling now, as if I would be entering nail school for the first time, but without the option of a savings account.
This is the reality for most of our industry. According to NAILS Magazine’s Big Book, 75% of nail technicians in the US have a high school education. They are entering beauty school directly from high school. Prospective students can’t always afford the hefty price tag of tuition, nor can their families. There’s loans, but few nails-only programs qualify for Federal aid. Some don’t have the credit history required for a private loan, and some prospective techs don’t have their family’s support to enter the beauty profession, let alone financial backing. where are nail techs find nail technicians hire hiring candidates
That’s where many point to industry association and non-profit scholarships. If that’s the route you’re going down, I wish you luck. Scholarships from non-profit agencies like Beauty Changes Lives come with a lot of strings attached. First, you can apply, but many of the partner schools only offer full cosmetology programs. If you can find a nails-only program, the school also has to be deemed an eligible institution. Eligible institutions are exclusively members of the AACS – the American Association of Cosmetology Schools, an association made up of privately owned beauty schools in the country, who pay for membership. Among other pursuits, the AACS “lobbies Congress and the Department of Education aggressively to protect the interests of private career schools,” meaning it lobbies lawmakers to enact legislation that protects the Big Business of beauty and the interests of privately owned system schools, with no mention of where the student fits into that equation.
This really rubs me the wrong way because we have organizations like BCL and its leadership all patting themselves on the back for making a beauty career more accessible, yet again, nail students are left holding the bag in favor of those pursuing a full cosmetology program. where are nail techs find nail technicians hire hiring candidates
As of this writing, it appears that there are no scholarships for nail students within Beauty Changes Lives, only one for licensed pros to pursue continuing education.
If I were back in 2012 and without access to funds for tuition and I attempted to get a scholarship through BCL or a similar organization, I would find that there are no eligible schools in Chicago that offer a nails-only program. None. There are plenty of schools that offer nail technology programs, but they aren’t a member school of the AACS, and therefore don’t count. And when it comes to other scholarship programs, you run into the same issue; they’re almost all for cosmetology programs or continuing education. where are nail techs find nail technicians hire hiring candidates
Now it isn’t all doom and gloom. In my research for this post, I found a few bright spots. The NIC sponsors a scholarship called the Aurie J. Gosnell scholarship that is open to nail technicians. There is also the beautyschool.com scholarship, and the PBA Minerva Scholarship, both of which apply to study in nail technology.
It is very apparent that the current system is broken, and in desperate need of a complete rebuild to maintain the relevance of our licenses and ensure the future of our profession.
Removing the barriers to entry by making nail school affordable and accessible is key. And once prospective techs are in school, they should be learning business basics to help them run their businesses once they graduate. A new beauty industry is on the horizon; it’s up to us to demand change and make it happen. where are nail techs find nail technicians hire hiring candidates
What would you like to see happen with the future of beauty education? Let us know in the comments below. where are nail techs find nail technicians hire hiring candidates