Continuing education is key to the future growth of the industry. So why is it not getting the attention it deserves? Have nail techs and manufacturers become disenchanted with continuing education and relegated it to the back burner?
Poor quality education hidden amid a blatant sales pitch is not much of a draw for nail techs, she argues. And it is not a draw for educators either. There is a shortage of nail techs who want to become manufacturer’s educators. Many of them find that they can make more money in the chair than in front of a classroom, while others do not find the frequent travel and disruption of their daily business appealing.
Other nail techs don’t see the quality and availability of classes or educators as the problem, but rather an attitude among many techs that they learned everything they need to know in school. If they are comfortable with the products they use, some techs don’t feel the need to branch out and learn new things.
“Some techs, once they get out of beauty school, never set foot in another classroom again and it reflects poorly on the industry as a whole,” says Jill Wright of Angel’s Salon in Bowling Green, Ky. This may be due to the fact that many techs don’t view themselves as professionals, she says.
“Nail techs are saddled with the stigma of ‘Madge the manicurist’ and people don’t take this career seriously — including a percentage of the currently licensed nail techs.” Angela Green of Anointed Hands in Kansas City, Mo., agrees, saying, “It is difficult to get nail techs excited about what they are doing. Many feel that their clients own them, instead of the other way around.”
“I believe that the lack of emphasis on continuing education stems from the fact that many nail techs view it as a requirement imposed by the state rather than an opportunity to grow their business,” says Leslie Fanini Randall, education development manager of Creative Nail Design.
She is not alone in this sentiment. “While I believe in continuing education, forcing it ruins the educational aspect of a class,” says Barb Wetzel, an educator and webmaster of nailsplash.com. “Something about CEU status of a class changes the whole dynamic of a classroom and not much learning seems to take place. Even previously motivated techs are now just taking up space many times to get their hours.”
Yet other industry members view nail techs’ lack of interest as a result of the lack of emphasis on continuing education on the part of salon owners and state boards. “The number-one reason for the lack of emphasis is that not all states have a continuing education requirement,” says Meola. The message that continuing education is important to the industry and to the progress of their career is not reaching many techs — and so they have no idea about the educational opportunities available to them.
The lack of interest in continuing education may also be a symptom of dissatisfaction with the industry as a whole. “Nail techs have become disenchanted by the change in the industry over the last few years. The influx of discount salons has really changed how many techs operate and they are lowering their prices to compete as the cost of product, rent, and utilities go up,” says Tate. Many techs are experiencing a drop in profits and are working even harder. Overworked and frustrated, some techs may see little benefit in continuing education since clients seem to gravitate to the low-priced nail techs. Because continuing education offerings vary from state to state and often, neighborhood to neighborhood, some nail techs and salons have turned to alternative forms of education.
Some salons have created training and mentoring programs within their own businesses in order to create a uniform knowledge and practice base among their employees. This “do-it-yourself ” approach is hard to monitor throughout the industry, and may contribute to perceived low class attendance.
At the same time and as a result of poor class attendance, “Manufacturers also get disillusioned with education,” says Irwin. “If a class doesn’t fill up, manufacturers don’t want to do it again,” thereby giving techs the impression that education is scarce and not a priority among their distributors and manufacturers.
“Manufacturers want to provide the education,” contends Cuccio. “As nail technicians participate, the availability will grow. We just need more nail professionals to attend our classes.”
Many industry members are not satisfied with this attitude, however. “I believe that continuing education hasn’t been given the amount of energy and dedication it takes from manufacturers, distributors, and associations at this time because of the cost,” says Darling.
“Most educators are required to sell product at their classes and they should have some of that responsibility; however, the classes should be education, not sales, driven.”
Manufacturers and distributors, however, must focus on the cost and view education as another business venture, for that reason most of their class offerings are strictly product-related. “Unfortunately for manufacturers, the cost of education is very expensive with little return to show for it.
As a result of too few nail techs coming to classes, manufacturers are finding other alternatives for reaching their audience, “Tate points out. In addition to being extremely education- focused, Creative Nail Design, for example, this year launched a new show booth that features live on-screen demonstrations by its top educators and interactive stations where nail techs are guided through the properties of a product and given the opportunity to test the product themselves.