East Mississippi Community College Associate Dean of Instruction Michael Busby, left, and David Long, head of the cosmetology and barbering programs at EMCC, sit in the soon-to-be barbering classroom on Tuesday at the Golden Triangle campus in Mayhew. The room is in the process of being emptied so the floor can be waxed before stations are set up for classes. Photo by: Jennifer Mosbrucker/Dispatch Staff
July 18, 2019 10:46:31 AM
When David Long owned his own salon, he was constantly frustrated by the training -- or lack thereof -- of hairdressers he had working for him.
"They would come in and they wouldn't know the basics of how to color or cut," said Long, who heads East Mississippi Community College's cosmetology program. "So when I became an instructor, I wanted to teach the kinds of students I would have liked to hire."
Beginning in August, Long will also head up EMCC's new barbering program, which will prepare students to take the Mississippi Board of Barber Examiners test to become licensed barbers. To achieve that, 20 students each year will receive 1,500 hours of training -- 40 hours a week -- through a nine-month program focused on men's hair-cutting techniques like clipper and scissor cuts, and hairstyles like taper, fade and spike cuts. About two months into the program, students will have the chance to open the program's roughly $25,000 facility in Mayhew -- which includes brand-new stations, chairs, sinks and other equipment -- to provide haircuts, manicures, pedicures and facials to their friends and family members brave enough to visit.
"We want to give them that experience of not just working on mannequins, but on real customers," Long said. "It used to be that barbers just cut hair and that's it. But now men go to barbershops for the experience. ... That's why so many barbershops have been opening up in the region. ... We want to train barbers that can provide that experience."
The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the demand for barbers, hairstylists and cosmetologists is expected to grow by 13 percent between 2019 and 2026, a figure higher than the average for all other occupations. Locally, Long said that demand is bolstered by consumers' desire to have dedicated spaces for specialized beauty services.
"Used to be that unisex salons were what people wanted to visit, but now we're going to back to the old traditions of the barbershop and beauty shop," he added.
'Preparing for the workforce'
Associate Dean of Instruction Michael Busby said the decision to add a barbering program to EMCC's catalog came after hearing from local schools and EMCC students there was a demand for a program specializing in mens' hair and grooming. Currently, EMCC's cosmetology program focuses more on hair coloring, hair weaving and permanent waving, while the barbering program will focus on men's haircuts, shaving and the basics of facial steaming.
"We heard from students that were getting ready to leave high school, students at (EMCC), that this was something they wanted," Busby said. "For us to be almost at class capacity already really shows how there is a demand for this."
Long said the program will emphasize training students -- which, demographically, are an even mix of African-American and white, male and female -- in how to cut, treat and style different hair textures.
"If you can cut and style a wide variety of hair types and textures outside of Caucasian hair, you're making yourself even more marketable," he said. "And honestly, a lot of the guys that come here, they're already cutting hair. They just need a license."
Despite the common conception that barbering is a man's work, Long is pleasantly surprised that almost half of his incoming barbering class are female. It goes a long way to defying stereotypes, he said.
"There's a stigma around the job title of 'barber' or 'hairdresser,'" he said. "But it's about the kind of training you have more than anything."
After completing the nine-month certificate course and passing the MBBE test, barbers are required to spend a year working for a salon or under another barber or hair stylist before they have the option to open their own shop, Long said. Both Long and Busby said they prioritize professional development for their cosmetology and barbering students so they are more likely to have a job at a salon immediately upon graduation.
"We tend sometimes to neglect this, but we really want to focus on learning people skills," Long said. "Customer service and etiquette, how to look a client in the eye. ... It's about preparing students for the workforce, not just teaching them the technical skills."
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