Tuesday, 17 August 2021 12:55

Bills, now in committee, snip away at barriers to entry in cosmetology

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Students at Alexander Paul Institute of Hair Design in Greenville. Students at Alexander Paul Institute of Hair Design in Greenville. Maya Reagan - Carolina Journal

RALEIGH — At Alexander Paul Institute of Hair Design in Greenville, N.C., students are looking toward the future. Here they learn to cut, curl, and color hair, but also tend to customers and build their client base — all the skills they will need for a lucrative career in cosmetology and other personal services. 


Some 50 students launch a new career here each year, but space for a student spot is tight. State regulations dictate student/teacher ratios, and the current state rules require that a potential cosmetology instructor work for five years or take a long course to become an instructor. The long process to teach has kept some of these chairs empty.  

 “Many practitioners would make excellent teachers but are unlikely to leave their good-paying jobs to enroll in an instructor program,” said Paul Naoum, co-founder of Alexander Paul Institute of Hair Design. 

“Their only other option is to work full-time for years before being eligible to take the teacher exam.”  

A bill in the state legislature would open some of the barriers to teaching, and free up more student space. H.B. 718 would reduce the required working time to one year of experience before taking an 800-hour instructor course to teach cosmetologists, estheticians, natural hair care specialists, or manicurists. The state exam requirement would remain in place. Naoum says the change would mean more instructors and more working graduates. 

“In my experience, the length of time that someone has practiced has no bearing on how good a teacher they are,” he said. “The exam for teachers given by the board tests one’s knowledge and abilities in teaching methodology.” 

Occupational licensing reform is one front in the effort to lower the cost and time for entry into some fields, particularly amid post-pandemic labor shortages. House Bill 434, also in committee this session, is designed to put more service professionals to work by having the state honor the national certification of reflexologists by the American Reflexology Certification Board, rather than creating another layer of state-level regulations. It does the same for music therapists.

“All of this just illustrates how invasive and burdensome North Carolina’s occupational licensing really is,” said Becki Gray, senior vice president of government affairs at the John Locke Foundation. “It’s so complicated and intertwined and full of protectionism and exclusivity, it is almost impossible to unwind all the tentacles and free people to pursue their dreams, have confidence in investing in their futures. 

“Think Audrey, the carnivorous plant in “The Little Shop of Horrors” and you’ll begin to understand the life-blood sucking of the state’s occupational licensing requirements.” 

For as long as they’ve been tracking it, 100% of students seeking a job as a stylist after completing their course find a position.  

“If the length of time for proof of practice can be reduced, it will allow cosmetology schools to employ more teachers, serve more students, and have a greater positive economic impact on our communities,” said Naoum.