Barbering at Pinellas Technical College Clearwater

Instructor Charles Harris (far right) enjoys showing his students haircutting techniques.

BY RAVEN JOY SHONEL, Staff Writer

CLEARWATER – Looking for a steady career with room for growth? Well, there’s a new trend in the hair industry, making it easier to get a foot in the door.

To encourage the finding of meaningful work in the state of Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis is removing unnecessary and burdensome regulations and barriers. So, the hours needed before sitting for an exam may be cut in the future from 1200 to 600 hours for a restricted barber. 

That could ultimately make getting out and making money happen in as little as six months, which is a positive for those wanting a fast track. 

Charles Harris, the barbering instructor on the Clearwater campus of Pinellas Technical College (PTC-CLW) likes the idea. But after some 40 years in the business, he knows that changes will have to be made in the curriculum to ensure students are graduating with the skills they need to be proficient in the art of cutting hair.

“I’m not quite sure how it is going to be structured,” he said, referring to the classes. 

The Department of Education generally is responsible for providing a timeline of what to cover academically and how long to stay on a given topic. Harris plans to adapt to the changes and continue to provide quality education.

He started cutting hair at the age of 14 and grew his hustle into a business. 

 “People in the neighborhood got to know that I had that skill, and they kept asking me to cut their hair,” said Harris, who enjoyed going house to house, honing his skills and providing a service to his friends and family. “It grew on me.”

Harris went on to get his professional license and has also worked as an instructor at another school. PTC’s barbering course is relatively new, only two and a half years since the doors opened. But in that short time, Harris, the college’s sole barbering instructor, has witnessed its growth.

“We started out with only one student,” he said. “I went out to all the barbershops in the area and encouraged them to send their potential barbers to PTC so that we can grow our program.” 

He also knew that with his teaching, he could put more qualified barbers in the workforce, something as a business owner he feels passionate about. Harris runs two barbershops, one in Clearwater and one in Tarpon Springs. 

He takes on students that show potential in his own establishments once they receive their license and help them worked toward becoming the best in their field. 

Students in the program learn how to cut all types of hairstyles and textures, with shears, clippers and razors. They also learn how to cut all lengths of hair, so no client is left unsatisfied. 

“You notice the short hairstyles are a big fad right now, so everybody across the universe is wearing the faded haircuts, the blowouts, the mohawks,” he said. 

Harris feels this brings all cultures in for a cut and allows all ethnicities to learn fading techniques. 

“Now it won’t be separate like years ago when only African Americans did a real good fade. Now you have all races of people doing the same kind of haircut, and they are doing a really good job with technique.”

Tuition for the current 1200 course runs about $3,500, with books, supplies, and fees equaling roughly $2,000, as opposed to the American Institute of Beauty that charges close to $15,000.  Financial aid is available to students who qualify. 

PTC boasts small class sizes, making it easier to get one-on-one attention. Evening courses make it easy to work and attend school for students, young and older. It usually takes about a year for students to complete the 1200 hours currently required. 

Once state requirements for the program are met, students receive a certificate of completion and must sit for the state exam to obtain their license. 

With Harris at the helm of the program, job placement is high. Not only does he employ students, he consults with local barbers regularly to see what’s available for his charges.

PTC also conducts barbershop days where students attend area businesses and evaluate what they see. They are instructed to jot down information about the clientele, such as what races frequent the barbershops, whether they use clippers or shears with the majority of their work, even if there is adequate parking. 

“We want students to be aware of what the job market really looks like,” said Harris. “It also gives them the opportunity to network with that salon’s owner or manager to see if there is an opportunity for them.”  

About the Barbering program

The Barbering program is a 1200-hour PELL eligible course that is featured only on the Clearwater Students are prepared for employment as a Restricted Barber or Barber with eligibility for Florida State Certification. 

Classes currently run four days a week, Monday – Thursday from 2:15-9 p.m. Next semester begins March 24.

For more information on the more than 40 programs offered at PTC, visit myptc.edu or call 727-893-2500 in St. Pete and 727-538-7167 in Clearwater.

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