Salon owners and nail technicians alike are aware that a beauty school education isn’t quite enough preparation for a career as a nail technician. Education isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity for technicians who want to keep up with product and technical changes in the nail industry. As a result, some salons have developed extensive training programs for employees. NAILS with investigate these program in an ongoing series.

Gene Juarez, who created a chain of six salons in Seattle, Wash., understand that success follows knowledge. The upscale Gene Juarez salon staff nail technicians, hair designers, and skin care professionals who are twice trained – first at cosmetology school, then at the Gene Juarez Advance Training Center (ATC). All Gene Juarez employees are required to complete in their course respective areas of expertise and to continue their education every year with additional courses offered at the ATC. Nail technicians learn advance manicures, pedicures, wrap services, sculptured acrylics, tip application, sanitation, nail disease and disorders, customer relations, and marketing.

Begun in 1971, the ATC is the only advance beauty school to be nationally accredited and approved by the Department of Education, which allows students to participate in federally funded aid programs. Students come from all over the country from the ranks of saloon owners, recent graduates, and salon employees who want to learn more.

Only ATC graduates who have achieved 81% or higher on their test scores are accepted as employees of Gene Juarez salons, so local students are motivated to perfect their skills. Because students have already completed a basic beauty school program, instructors at the ATC concentrate on techniques in greater detail.

What do students learn at the ATC?

At the ATC, students are refining their skills. It’s like going from a thick kindergarten pencil to a No. 2 – they get the basics with the large pencil and then refine their technique with the smaller one. We don’t teach complete understanding of the tools and nail services they will be providing their clients. In beauty school, they learn to glue on a tip. At the ATC, they learn to take the nail shape, whether it’s regular, flat, ski-jump, or hooked, determines where they lay the tip on the nail to get the look they want. Students learn to look at the length of the nail bed to determine the length of the free edge – the goal is to achieve a balanced nail. We also take students one step further in their sculptured acrylic technique and teach them to see the nail as three-dimensional, not just a flat surface to put acrylic on and file down.

What’s a typical day like for an ATC student?

There are anywhere from three to 15 students per class. We prefer six so they can pair up and we can give them lots of attention. The curriculum is constantly being revised, but we have a calendar so that the nail technicians know exactly what they’ll learn. Each day is structured so that in the morning we cover theory and have hands-on classes in the afternoon. They’ll work for six to eight weeks, five days per week, eight hours per day, to complete the advanced training program, and after that they’ll come back for continuing education.

What are some of the most important things nail technicians need to learn?

The most important thing students can learn is proper posture and what I call “grounding.” Proper posture helps nail technicians avoid fatigue. And grounding is a technique for supporting the hands while they work. This technique induces perfection because it helps the nail technician avoid the cuticle, and also it instills confidence in the client.

Whatever nail technique students use, once they’ve developed a complete understanding, the next step is to get their speed up while maintaining quality.

Why is additional education so important?

The market’s getting more educated and sophisticated. Students have to keep an eye on the changes. Usually students want to get out of beauty school and make money. There’s not enough time after beauty school to take a class, but nail technicians need more education. If they’re not getting educated, there’s no way to grow.

What helps nail technicians provide good customer service?

People skills and communication skills. There are so many personality types that I tell students they have to be chameleons. Change your style based on your surroundings and adjust your communication to fit your clients. You can recognize different types of people by their body language and clothing, whether they make eye contact, their tone of voice, and how they talk. A client who’s a “driver,” for example, wants to get in and our fast.

If you can change your communication style, you can broaden your client base. The nail technician has more intimate conversations, more touching, and more eye contact with the client than anyone else in the salon. Eighty percent of clients come back because they like you.

Does communicating with the client also mean educating her?

Clients love to be educated, but nail technicians are afraid to educate because they’re afraid of losing the client. If you educate the client, she’ll know why she’s getting the service she’s getting, you can guarantee your work if she cares for her nails properly at home, and you can tell her what products she needs and sell them to her. She’ll come back because you’re educating her and she trusts you.

What continuing education classes do you offer current employees?

Nail technicians are required to have a certain number of hours per year and to take certain classes. Also, all employees are “shopped” on occasion to be sue the quality of service is high. Being shopped means that your “client” has been sent to critique your service. It’s a way of checking our consistency and to see if employees need more training.

When we try a new product, I will distribute it to the department heads and they’ll test it and give me their feedback. Once we decide to use the product, we’ll invite the manufacturer out to teach a class. We will try new products, but we don’t buy them for our technicians until after they’ve been in the market two or three years. For example, we’ve found that gels only work on small number of people and we don’t offer that service at Gene Juarez.

What methods of sanitation do you teach?

Sanitation and sterilization are top priorities at Gene Juarez. Currently, we use a sterilizing soak and alcohol rinse, and we are about to implement a policy that requires nail technicians to have two sets of implements, one to soak, one to use. But I test all products and procedures at the ATC before I place them in a salon.

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, Click here.