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Adults can study cosmetology at ICTC

| Thursday, May 10, 2012, 9:55 a.m.

INDIANA--Non-traditional students are not the novelty they once were--it is common to see adults working by day and studying by night.

Now those with an interest in hair and makeup can do the same through a new program at the Indiana County Technology Center.

Cosmetology has always been offered at the secondary level there, but it has now expanded to include adult education.

The concept was proposed a year ago, said Michael Felice, president of Adult Learning Management Services, Inc., the overseer of the project, and the manager for the new Indiana Cosmetology Academy, which will officially open Aug. 2.

"(ICTC) was interested in expanding their adult education program, and they thought cosmetology was (the way to go)," Felice said.

Mary Yarnal, adult education coordinator for ICTC, said she has fielded calls for years on whether a program was offered for adults.

"I get a call a week from people wanting to know if they could enroll in cosmetology and I've always had to say no," she said. "I've had five calls just today.

"We are starting this because there has been a demand."

She said previously, adults have been permitted to sit in on cosmetology classes only to observe, and only when there was an opening, which was not that often.

Last year, Felice was approached by Jack Jahoda, administrative director for ICTC, after Felice taught a financial aid class for him.

"We started talking, and he showed an interest," recalled Felice. "I proposed a program, and how we could do it."

The Indiana Cosmetology Academy will offer adults the opportunity to obtain a license in general cosmetology, "for them to get a degree to become a licensed hairdresser," Felice emphasized.

"They receive all of the requirements, the clinics," he said.

A second program will offer a teaching certification, for students who want to become an instructor or a manufacturer representative in the field.

"For private or vocational, you need that license," Felice stressed.

Becky Shirey, program supervisor, will instruct the teaching courses, which span 18 weeks, or 630 hours.

"They'll learn how to develop lesson plans, how to present them, and communicate them," Shirey said. Students will also be required to design tests and learn one-on-one counseling techniques.

Instructor students will also be evaluated in the field.

"By the end of the 630 hours, they should be able to go into a basic cosmetology class and instruct the class," Shirey noted. "The goal is to have them pass the state board and get a job."

A third offering is the esthetic skin care program, which focuses on skin care and makeup. Felice said graduates would be considered skin care technicians and makeup artists, and would receive training in makeup for theatrical, runway, and photography purposes. Treatments for various skin conditions would also be taught.

"Skin care technicians are working in spas," noted Felice. "That's the big thing right now. They're also working with dermatologists for the treatment of skin conditions, and with surgeons, helping prep skin for surgery."

Licensed cosmetologists taking the 10-week skin care course would not have to take the state board exam, Felice said.

The start of classes for both the cosmetology teacher program and the esthetic skin care program will be based on enrollment, said Yarnal. The Aug. 2 opening of the general cosmetology program will have two classes operating at the same time.

The general cosmetology curriculum is a 36-week program for full-time students. It requires 1,260 hours of class time and clinics, which can be completed by a full-time student in nine months; a part-time student could finish in 18 months.

Night and day courses will be available, and all classes will be separate from the secondary day vocational students, Felice noted.

Three instructors will handle all courses taught at the academy, but more would be added if the demand rises--state law requires one instructor per 25 students, Felice said.

Felice said that because he has teaching experience, he will also be able to fill in as an instructor when needed.

The esthetics class will require eight students to start a session, while the general cosmetology program will allow up to 25 students per class.

A typical class, though, will be six to eight students, to encourage a strong teacher/student ratio.

"I'd rather have eight great students come out of a class than more than eight come out bored" because they're not receiving one-on-one instruction, said Shirey. "I want them to get the full benefit of education."

Yarnal said that the academy is not yet enrolling students, but a waiting list now lists 20 students. "And we'll see what today brings," she said.

Those interested, though, will undergo an interview process, "to ensure that they're serious," said Felice. "We'll let them come in for a week free of charge, let them observe, shadow, and that really helps people make up their mind."

Tuition fees include all supplies needed to complete the program.

The general cosmetology fee, which includes equipment, books, enrollment, graduation, and uniforms, is $9,741.

Tuition for the cosmetology teachers program is $4,926, including equipment, books, enrollment, graduation, and smock.

Esthetic skin care and makeup students will pay a total course cost of $2,945.

"We tried to do it as cost-effective as we could for the students," said Felice.

Graduates will also be assisted with job placement. "We don't guarantee," Felice pointed out. "But we do have courses to help them prepare for that."

The school has an advisory board of professionals who deal in the beauty business, including local salons.

"They advise the school on what they think we need to update," said Felice.

Philip Pelusi, famed Pittsburgh salon owner, serves on the board, and often recruits ICTC students as employees.

Students and instructors of cosmetology--and all technical careers, for that matter--have had to fight stereotypes about a technical education. (That's why they became "technical centers" instead of "vo-tech schools.")

Some feel that technical schools offer a "watered-down" education, but as Felice, Yarnal, and Shirey will all attest, even if that was once true, it isn't any more.

Cosmetology has been viewed more positively over the past few years, they agreed.

Almost every major television network has bought into the recent makeover show craze, moving what used to be daytime TV talk show fodder into prime time.

Movies, too, have played a part in the improved perception of cosmetology.

"The movie Shampoo (1975) helped us a lot," noted Felice, naming a Warren Beatty film. After that, he said, enrollment in cosmetology programs increased by 85 percent.

"We're being treated as professionals these days," said Felice. "Our image has changed."

Yarnal touted the career's ability to remain unfazed by a changing economy, also.

"Cosmetology is recession-proof," she stated. "Have you ever seen on the news of a massive layoff of hairdressers?"

"It's adaptable, too," added Shirey. "You can have your job, have a baby, and it's an easy career to fall back into" after an extended break.

The latest trend of spas has also helped give the beauty industry a boost.

Said Jahoda, "Spas have made a big difference in cosmetology," noting that baby boomers are willing to spend big to look young.

The rapport that many customers seem to have with their hairdressers has also been a point of discussion in the field--many people feel more comfortable talking with their stylists than they do with their psychiatrists, Shirey pointed out.

Felice said cosmetologists touch their clients, "and when you touch someone, you create an instant bond," said Felice.

As the final touches are added to the academy, ICTC administration are looking forward to the doors that the Indiana Cosmetology Center will open for graduates.

"We're really excited about this," said Yarnal. "Michael and Becky come to the table with lots of experience and enthusiasm."

"We're really thinking that this program will reach beyond Indiana County," Jahoda stated.

And he seems to be right.

Ashley Holnaider, 18, was one of the first visitors to the open house Monday. She graduated from Derry Area High School in June, where she also attended the cosmetology department of the Eastern Westmoreland Career and Technology Center.

As a student of the program for three years, Holnaider learned the basics of hairdressing, facials, manicures, and pedicures, but now that she's graduated, she wanted to go into a little more depth in order to pursue a career as a hair stylist.

She learned of ICTC's offer for adult cosmetology certification through an ad in a local newspaper.

"I've been with the cosmetology program (at EWCTC) since the 10th grade, and I'm interested and have a passion for it," she stated. "Since I was little, I've loved doing people's hair and nails."

Her days at EWCTC helped Holnaider mark her future, but she also made many friends with similar interests.

"We had so much fun," she remarked. "I got to know so many girls from other schools," many of whom are also looking into ICTC's new adult eduction program.

Fashion shows hosted by her school fed her desire to become a cosmetologist. "They gave us a good reputation," she said of the shows. "It was like, 'Look what we can do to each other's hair and look how nice it turned out.'"

Her involvement with the program also allowed her to begin accumulating hours to receive her cosmetology certification. Enrolling in the ICTC program would be an opportunity for her to complete the 1,250 hours needed to become a licensed cosmetologist.

"My interest was to come up here to finish my hours," she said. "I couldn't find somewhere close enough."

So when the ad immediately caught her eye, she made plans to attend the open house to learn more about what they were offering.

"Anything that says 'cosmetology' on it, I want to go see it," she added.

After receiving a tour of the facility Monday and learning what courses ICTC was presenting, Holnaider was immediately impressed, especially because the program offers a state board preparation course.

"That really interested me," she said, "that you can take that before you take the boards. I'll take any help I can get."

Holnaider's main interest is in the hairdressing portion of the program--she wants to someday own a salon of her own, "where customers can come in and be relaxed. That's definitely my dream," she remarked.

Her little sister, Jessica, has hopes of becoming a model, and Holnaider said if that comes to fruition, she would serve as her sibling's personal hairstylist.

Beth Baird was also in attendance Monday. A 1999 graduate of the Pittsburgh Beauty Academy, Baird, 25, has already received her cosmetology license, but is now looking into becoming an instructor.

Shirey taught Baird while at the academy, and encouraged her to attend the open house to learn what ICTC was offering for would-be instructors.

"I knew (Shirey), I had her as a teacher, and I knew how much she would put into the program to make it work," Baird said of why she followed Shirey's advice to look into the ICTC program.

Baird said she would like to become a technical school instructor in the area.

"I had entertained the idea of teaching," she said. "I had thought about becoming a vo-tech teacher only because I'm a stay-at-home mom now, and I've worked in some successful salons--too hectic, very busy, too late at night, seven days a week."

Through her salon work, Baird gained experience with hairdressing, nails, and makeup.

Locally, she got her start at the salon in J.C. Penneys.

Her interest in cosmetology has led to a desire to further her education.

"First of all, it's what I'm good at," Baird said on why she's looking into the ICTC instructor program. "It's always been a skill."

Baird has watched the image of cosmetology change since she's been involved in various programs and salons, but she said she does have to deal with certain negative perceptions that some people have about hairstylists.

"How I've dealt with these perceptions--I've always made more money than some friends with college degrees," she stated. "Cosmetologists can be very successful. You can make six figures doing hair.

"Cosmetology is what I wanted to do. I didn't do this because I had to. A lot of the time, people say, 'Oh, you're so smart, why didn't you go to college?' I didn't have to." In fact, Baird left college, where she was studying for a degree in business, to attend beauty school.

"Any form of education is good," Baird emphasized. "You don't get any less of an education at a technical school than you do at college.

Adult education programs are not new to the Indiana County Technology Center.

For years, adults have been able to study fields such as medicine and computers at ICTC, and the variety of programs offered is growing.

In September, a 900-hour course will be available for those who wish to study to become a medical assistant. According to Mary Yarnal, ICTC adult education coordinator, the school will partner with Indiana Regional Medical Center.

Also new will be a pharmacy technician program. "We have programs for medical coding, medical secretary, nurses aides, home and assisted living, construction inspection," Yarnal listed. "Our adult program is really growing."

Yarnal said the Indiana County Healthcare Consortium has been very supportive of ICTC's medical programs.

"We're encouraging people who would otherwise go to Pittsburgh, Erie, Philadelphia, to consider ICTC because the programs we offer are going to be high-demand jobs," Yarnal noted.

She said the computer programs at the adult education center will also be expanded, and will include a network technician certification and a desktop publishing program.

ICTC is looking at other options, too, after researching the career needs in the community.

"Our goal for next year is...customized job training," Yarnal explained, "working with manufacturers and service providers to see what their needs are."

Added Jack Jahoda, ICTC administrative director, "It's a win-win situation. We want to train people for a job market that we absolutely know will be there."

Added Yarnal: "We don't want kids from our area to leave for Pittsburgh, New York City--we want to make sure that we're providing them with (skills) they need."

The center is undergoing a large renovation project, partly due to ICTC's expanded adult education undertaking.

"We want prospective students to see what our facility looks like," Yarnal said.

During the day, adult students will use an area specific to them, and as the secondary students' day ends, adult students will then be able to use the clinics.

"That's the beauty of what we're doing here," said Yarnal. The adult education program "will provide the opportunity for individuals who might otherwise not be able to attend school.

"It will make it possible for them to pursue goals that they have had for themselves, because life does get in the way sometimes.

"But we have lots of flexibility, and the sky is the limit."

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