Lead instructor April Barron instructs students on how to chemically relax hair.
BY RAVEN JOY SHONEL, Staff Writer
ST. PETERSBURG – Pinellas Technical College (PTC) is ready to unveil its brand new state-of-the-art beauty salon to the public. Next Tuesday, Oct. 18 at their annual open house event, the public is invited to tour the newly renovated cosmetology department and meet the instructors.
Close to $300,000 was spent on renovations that will make you feel like you’ve walked into a posh Rodeo Drive salon in Los Angeles. The grand reopening is not to just attract clientele, but is also to attract potential students who are looking for a career or changing careers and would like to try their hand in the growing beauty industry.
The 1200-hour cosmetology program goes beyond the basics when teaching aspiring beauty-industry professionals. Of course students will learn how to cut, color and style hair, but with the new Facial Specialty and Nail Technician programs, graduates from PTC will be leaps and bounds ahead of students graduating from other beauty academies.
“I believe the morale of our students being able to be in a facility that looks like the industry is important,” said Program Coordinator and Lead Instructor April Barron. “I want to advertise that we are a viable competitor to the other salon programs that are out there.”
The old salon was built in the 1970s and had most of the original features.
“It feels good when you’re in a beautiful environment. It feels good when the water is hot when it’s supposed to be hot,” she laughed, saying that these new renovations will attract students who dismissed the program before because of its dated facility.
Before a student can even think about putting their hands into someone’s hair, they must learn the science of hair, skin, scalp and nails, which includes learning different diseases and disorders.
Since students will be working with electrical equipment, they must learn how to handle electrical appliances safely. Most people wouldn’t think that chemistry would have to be studied, but students must learn the PH levels of hair and skin and what will be comparable in products that are used.
“Sometimes we work with caustic products,” said Barron, and students must be “careful and mindful when using those products.”
Students are taught the chemistry of coloring, relaxing and permanent waving. They also learn what gets broken down when changing the structure of the hair from straight to curly or vice versa.
“Here at PTC we are serious about the theory we teach our students,” she said. “People don’t realize that this is a real science and they really have to learn what the theory behind doing hair is all about.”
Barron and the two other cosmetology instructors Tenise Crum and Marion Davis are all serious about theory and keeping the industry professional.
“I tell my students that if they hear about people doing hair at home without a license that they need to report them,” said Barron, stating that the industry is regulated and stylist need to know how to care for a client properly.
Once a student is done with theory, they must complete a number of services on mannequins before he or she can move on to actual practical work on the floor.
It is at the discretion of the instructor if the student is ready to work on actual clients, and without clients the program wouldn’t be as nearly successful.
“Sometimes I look at one of my students shampooing a mannequin and I think that’s not how you would shampoo a client. So we are always looking for clients,” said Barron. Their prices are comparable to an entry-level salon stylist, with shampoos and sets costing $12.
They offer color, permanent waves, relaxers, twist outs and braiding and weaving on occasion.
Students get to leave the classroom and step into a real-world salon a few times a year. Each student must spend time shadowing or observing how a working salon operates. They are not permitted to do any service other than shampooing clients.
Students are not allowed to shadow salons they are familiar with so that they will know what it feels like to be uncomfortable and what expectations other salons may have.
“I’m always interested in hearing when they are uncomfortable,” said Barron, who then explores those feelings with her students.
“This cosmetology umbrella encompasses so many different aspects. You can go into so many fields and I don’t want them to ever feel that all they can do is stand behind a chair and do hair. I don’t want them to feel uncomfortable or intimidated in any environment.”
The program currently has 24 adult students and 13 high school students from Gibbs, Boca Ciega and St. Petersburg High.
High school students are dually enrolled, and split their day between their home school and PTC. Coming to the program in their senior year, high schoolers will earn approximately 400 hours of cosmetology time.
The high school curriculum encompasses manicures, pedicures and facials. After high school they would have to come back and enroll as adults to finish the course.
To get credit for the course, each student must complete 610 services on actual people or mannequins.
So why would a student choose the cosmetology program at PTC over a private institution?
“We have an incredible amount of passion for the industry. We have the same curriculum that any of these other programs offer. We even use the very same books.”
Barron said some institutions charge upwards of $28,000 compared with PTC’s cost of under $6,000.
“With financial aid, you come out owing nothing. The other schools offer financial aid, but the students would have to get a loan to make up the difference,” she said.
Since the program opened back up in 2013, there have only been four students who had to retake the state board test. Barron feels that the program’s success rate is due to the way their instructors interact with the students.
Barron is looking for people to sit on their advisory board for all three programs. The right candidate must be in the industry and be able to help the instructors with guidance and industry expectations.
PTC offers morning and evening classes, which gives the students enough time to hold down a job. Morning sessions are from 7 a.m. to 12: 15 p.m., and evening classes begin at 3 p.m. and are finished at 9 p.m.
If you’re interested in exploring this career path, please visit www.pcsb.org/myptc or call 727-893-2500. Financial aid is available.