Shared from the 4/8/2018 The Columbus Dispatch eEdition

Bills would get more cosmetologists into workforce


In Ohio, you can be an emergency medical technician after completing 800 hours of training, a police officer after 695 hours and a licensed practical nurse after 1,376 hours.

And to sit for a licensing exam to cut hair? Would you believe 1,500 hours of training?

Two bills are making their way through the Ohio General Assembly — House Bill 189 and Senate Bill 129 — that would reduce burdensome training requirements for those who want to work in Ohio’s cosmetology industry. Both represent common-sense changes designed to put qualified people to work in good, in-demand jobs more quickly. These changes are necessary, especially when employment of barbers, hairstylists and cosmetologists is projected to grow 13 percent from 2016 to 2026, faster than the average for all occupations, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

As a salon owner for the past 50 years, I know how important it is to find qualified, well-trained professionals and how difficult it can sometimes be. Lowering the number of hours to 1,000 for students in all cosmetology schools has been supported by private schools of cosmetology, salon owners and licensees, and groups such as the Ohio Salon Association, The Institute for Justice, the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, the National Federation of Independent Businesses and The Buckeye Institute.

Those who get their training in vocational centers as part of a public high school education receive around 1,000 hours of cosmetology specific training.

These bills also make it easier to begin working in Ohio if you’re licensed in another state by allowing work elsewhere to count toward Ohio licensing hours and removing the requirement that cosmetologists licensed in another state sit for the Ohio exam. It further helps encourage state-to-state license endorsement by changing from an Ohio-only licensing exam to a national exam that is approved and used throughout the country. A cosmetology license in Ohio will be treated much like a driver’s license, which makes it easy to come to work here.

Updating the licensing requirements also has practical benefits for students. It not only encourages them to finish their programs by eliminating a strong source of frustration — the excessive time it takes to complete them — but it also lowers the student loan debt the student will be burdened with as he or she starts working. In fact, students leave private cosmetology schools with between $15,000 and $30,000 in debt. Cosmetologists have the potential to make more than $100,000 annually after five to 10 years in the profession. But keeping them in a training program paying tuition for an additional 500 hours delays their accomplishment of their professional and financial goals.

Finally, the bills include criteria for allowing some students to fulfill part of their licensing requirement through apprenticeships, where they learn through hands-on, paid work under the tutelage of an experienced supervisor while still being required to complete additional classroom training. Salon owners rely on public and private cosmetology schools to produce the next generation of cosmetology licensees, but if private schools continue closing their doors (30 percent since May 2015), salon owners need the ability to sponsor apprenticeship programs to train their future workforce.

These bills don’t eliminate the teaching of skills needed for professionalism, safety and health; they update them to make sense in today’s job market. They also don’t change the fact that cosmetologists need continuing education and training throughout their careers — cosmetologists still will need eight hours of professional education every two years to stay current.

I want to employ good people, provide good service and make my customers happy. Either of these bills would make it easier for me to find the people I need, when I need them, while removing barriers of entry for those who want to make their living in a professionally satisfying industry.

Charles A. Penzone is founder and chairman of Charles Penzone Inc.

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