Donald Trump may have given apprenticeship some glamour, but aspiring nail techs have been completing these hands-on training programs for years pre-dating the hit show “The Apprentice”. (And instead of hearing “you’re fired,” nail tech apprentices hear “you’re licensed!”) Before you sign up for an apprenticeship, take on an apprentice at your salon, or set out to get your state’s laws changed on the subject, here’s what you need to know.
What If My State Doesn't Offer Apprenticeships?
“Life changes have split us up but not kept us apart,” says Vicki Jensen (center) of the nail techs she apprenticed under, including Francine Rantala (left) and Lisa Moore-King (right).
Whether you’re an aspiring nail tech who would prefer to apprentice or a nail tech or salon owner who wants to pass along your skills to the next generation, if your state doesn’t allow apprenticeship in lieu of school, then you have two main options. (Well, three, but the third is to move to a state that recognizes apprenticeship, which is probably not a viable option for many.)
The first is to go the recognized beauty school route, then do an unofficial apprenticeship program after licensure. That is, find a salon that is willing to let you shadow its nail techs, do easy tasks, and most importantly, train you in real world nail application and client interaction, for a period of about six months. (And if you’re a nail tech or salon owner, you can create such a program for newly licensed nail techs and market it like crazy.) Of course, such a program won’t have the cost advantages of an apprenticeship program. That is the easier of the two routes.
The second option is to get the law in your state changed, which may not be quite as difficult as it initially sounds. “It sounds scary but it really isn’t,” says Myra Irizarry, the director, government affairs, of the Professional Beauty Association (www.probeauty.org). “You don’t have to hire a lobbyist. A business owner-constituent speaking to her elected official is very powerful.”
The first step in getting the law changed is to find out which government body has the ability to change this particular law. This most likely falls to either the state board or the legislature in your state. How do you find that out? Ask your state board. Some have advisory capacity, but not law-making authority. For example, one reader asked NAILS how to get apprenticeship as an option in her state of North Carolina. We e-mailed the state board using the address published in NAILS’ Big Book and received an answer the next business day that for that particular state, that change would have to go through the legislature.
If your state board does have law-making authority, then ask to be added as an agenda item for its next meeting. “You can request to make a presentation, like a 10-minute PowerPoint,” Irizarry says. “Board meetings are open.”
If it’s the legislature, then it’s best to still contact the board to give them a heads-up about what you are doing (for transparency and maybe their support, as they will find out anyway if you get far enough along), then make appointments with both your state-level senator and your state-level house member for a meeting. (State-level senators and house members are those who report to the state capitol, not the federal senators and house members that report to Washington D.C.)
At the meeting, Irizarry says it is important to come armed with facts. Introduce yourself, then say something like “I’d like apprenticeships for nail techs. I want you to introduce new legislation on my behalf.” Bring a list of states that already have this law in place and bring examples of the actual legal text for a state whose verbiage your representative could simply copy. Contact states that have apprentice programs and find out how they are working. For instance, why was the program introduced? How do the state board fines compare for nail techs who were licensed via the school route via nail techs who were licensed via the apprenticeship route? Play to the representative’s interests. For example, if it is a representative who is known for being pro-small business, then point out that this new legislation would give small business owners (salon owners) a choice in who they hire, whether that’s someone who graduated from a school or someone who completed an apprenticeship. (You will need to do this for both the senator and the house member, as in most states a separate bill has to be introduced in each house.) Make a case they can’t refuse.
Once the bill is introduced (you’ll need to pay attention to both houses and follow these steps for both), read, and assigned a number, then it will be assigned to a committee. At that point, you should gather your support, both on the committee and from other beauty professionals. On the committee side, ask to testify at the meeting at which the bill will be discussed. Provide written testimony as well. Ask other salon owners and nail techs to do the same. You will also need to anticipate your opposition; for instance, schools may oppose the bill because they may be worried it will cost them students. Perhaps you can find a way to work with the schools (for instance, if they can do the theory portion of the apprenticeship) or you need to bulk up your supporters.
Once the bill passes out of committee, it will be given a vote date. Before that date, contact all legislators (via e-mail, phone, or a personal visit) and ask for their support. If you can identify particular legislators who you suspect will oppose the bill, then develop a compelling argument to sway them to your side.
Once the bill passes both houses, it will go to the governor to be signed into law (barring a veto).
That’s the basic process, but of course there may be obstacles along the way, including many of the built-in deadlines the government has, which sometimes result in good bills simply running out of time to pass. “If you run out of time the first time, such as if it doesn’t get out of committee, that’s not a failure,” Irizarry says. “You have a draft to start with next time.”
The Professional Beauty Association can help you with some of the process, such as telling you when your state’s legislative session starts, and you can reach Irizarry at myra[at]probeauty.org.
And regardless of which route you choose to earn your license or hire new techs, we encourage you to take continuing education classes throughout your career — which you can do regardless of which state you live in.
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