If you’re looking for a great way to get your students excited about practicing the skills they’re learning in school plus give them real-world experience, then take a page out of the book of Empire Education Group. Eight years ago, Empire — which has more than 100 accredited cosmetology schools in 22 states — started its own student competition, tradeshow, and networking event. And in just a few short years, Empire’s Future Professionals Expo in Hershey, Pa., has grown to become the largest student competition and trade show in the beauty industry.
You don’t have to have 100 locations to reap the benefits of an in-house competition either. You can reap the benefits with a small competition and networking event at one location. “Start small, but with big ideas! Make it as exciting as you can to get buzz going, then let your students’ talents and creativity shine through,” advises Angela Watson, director, public and media relations at Empire Education Group.
What kind of benefits can your school get? Watson says, “The benefits are all for our students! They get an entire weekend of advanced education, networking with potential employers, exposure to the latest tools and techniques on the tradeshow floor, and the chance to compete for amazing prizes and bragging rights against hundreds of other students.”
Franklin Schoeneman, Empire’s chairman and CEO, says, “Every year we are astonished by the level of talent and showmanship we see at this competition. The students put every drop of energy, inspiration, and skill they can summon into their creations, and the judges have never once had an easy time choosing the winners. The competition is fierce and the anxiety and nervous energy on Sunday is always palpable, but there is no better way to help students raise their game and ensure they will go on to great success in this wonderful industry of ours.”
One of the key characteristics that makes Empire’s Expo so successful is it gets some of the industry’s established top professionals to judge the competitions. Past judges have included Jan Zanettini of CND, Michael O’Rourke of Rock Your Hair, Rafe Hardy of Sexy Hair, Martin Dale of Matrix, Shannon Lamm of Goldwell, and Lydia Sarfati of Repechage.
Another key to success is the tradeshow floor, which regularly sells out due to enthusiastic beauty vendors who want to reach a student audience. “We often hear feedback after the show from vendors who were thrilled with the students, their professionalism, and their eagerness to learn new tips and techniques,” Watson says.
The Expo also includes The Networking Café, where future professionals discuss career opportunities and hone their interview skills with potential employers, like Great Clips and Hair Cuttery, plus advanced education providers, including American Crew, Empire’s Makeup Program, the Goldwell Salon Alliance, Masters of Beauty, and Milady. There may be some local salons in your area who would love the opportunity to attend a networking night at your school.
The school even takes the initiative to invite government officials to attend the Future Professionals Expo in order to learn about the beauty industry first hand. 2012 guests included Congressman Glenn Thompson, representing Pennsylvania’s 5th District, and Robert J. DeSousa, the state director for Pennsylvania’s U.S. Senator Pat Toomey.
To get started at your own school, set up a team of enthusiastic employees to plan your first event, make a timeline of what needs to happen when, create a buzz among your students, and go for it!
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