So many people in the nail industry—really in the cosmetology arts all together—bemoan the state of education in this field. They say that the educational requirements to earn a license are woefully inadequate, curriculums are laughably outdated, and continuing education requirements (for the few states that even have them) barely keep techs up to date on new laws, let alone new techniques. They paint a picture of students emerging from nail school wandering around with nary a clue as to how to put on a nail in the 21st century.

At the Networking Breakfast NAILS held at the Las Vegas Hair & Nail Conference recently, education or continuing education was at the root of the problem with nearly every challenge we identified the industry to be facing. Is the problem the schools themselves? Is the problem that students are not motivated? Is it that once in a salon, new nail techs cannot earn a living quickly enough to stay motivated? I think that’s a big issue. The techs who are going to lead this industry in the future have to be self-motivated. If you’re a student reading this or someone who’s been doing it forever, the only way to stay fresh is to seek out new things to learn. It doesn’t matter whether you’re learning a new technique, picking up a new software program and learning how to computerize your business, or you’re taking a class on how to deal with people more effectively—you’re not going to stay fresh unless you keep the new ideas coming in.

My mother, who turned 73 in July, just finished her first college semester. She had been directing a chorus of Sweet Adeline’s through a community group and she learned that if she had a college degree, even a two-year degree, she could get paid for doing what she was doing now as a volunteer. So she signed up for a couple of classes and went back to school. I admired her tremendously for doing it. But after the novelty of it wore off, it wasn’t about the money for her. It wasn’t about getting paid to direct the chorus, or the sense of completion she’d feel having finally earned a degree or finishing what she started years ago. She was learning things that were interesting and fun and eye-opening. She simply loved what she was studying.

That’s what continuing education is about: keeping it fresh, whether you just got out of school or you’re 73 and trying to finish what you started half a century earlier. 

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