It's a favorite pastime of nail industry folk to malign the job that cosmetology schools do preparing nail technicians for their salon careers.  I mostly agree that nail school education leaves much to be desired.  And while NAILS has outlined a variety of solutions over the years to this challenge, there’s an idea that isn’t considered often enough, and that’s apprenticeship.  I think more states ought to allow apprenticeships as a viable educational option for aspiring nail technicians.

There are a variety of reasons that states do not offer students apprenticeships.  Among them are concerns about the student getting adequate salon experience or simply being used as a “gofer.”  Another concern is that it requires more governmental oversight than schools because you essentially have more “teachers,” which are salon owners who are doing the apprenticeships.  Yet another obstacle is that there is still so much non-hands-on type work that has to be done in the schools to prepare students for their exams.  Of course, no one wants to put a client at risk because of an untrained manicurist, but the truth is, nail technicians learn how to deal with clients and how to work safely only after they are out of school and in a salon anyway.

Apprenticeships used to be offered more in trade careers, and they’re old-fashioned in that way.  A blacksmith, for example, could really only learn that trade at the feet of one more experienced.  We use interns in the publishing business, which isn’t exactly an apprenticeship, but it’s similar.  Future editors spend their summers out of the classrooms and away from book assignments and ply their newfound knowledge in the “real” world of publishing.  And they usually do it for very little or no money.   Now, we’re reminded that these interns are to be given serious work and involved in as many aspects of our business as possible, but in truth their “meaningful” work is well supplemented with grunt work.  The point is, they are in the environment, they’re exposed to the work life of an editor, and they play a vital (albeit not always fun) role on the team.  Rare is the intern who turns her nose up at an assignment.


So many salon owners tell me that they essentially start from scratch with new hires or nail technicians right out of school anyway.  The way I see it, if you are already training them, why not save everyone the time and aggravation of unnecessary school prep and put them directly into the salon?

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