Steve Sleeper: An Open Letter to the Professional Beauty Industry

Our entire industry is facing a number of challenges.

A growing number of governors, state legislators, and libertarian groups want to deregulate our profession, while federal regulators — like the Department of Education — are burdening our industry with impossible regulations.

It’s a perfect storm — and one we forecasted.

We saw the threat of deregulation coming, we saw the impact Gainful Employment would have on our schools and it is why we assembled an industry-working group over seven years ago. The working group was founded by the industry’s leading trade associations AACS, ISBN, PBA, NIC, as well as other industry leaders.

The working group has since evolved into the Future of the Beauty Industry Coalition (FBIC). This Coalition is comprised of ISBN, PBA, Empire Schools and BlueCo Brands. The focus of the FBIC is to protect the industry from deregulation by streamlining licensing requirements while maintaining high standards for health and public safety.

In an open letter I penned to the industry in 2014, I cautioned, “the need for uniformity across the U.S. can no longer wait. If we do not make common sense practical decisions to unify and reform our licensing structure, then these decisions will be made for us by those outside of our industry looking to remove occupational licensing altogether. No longer can we sit by without the research, data and documentation to support the licensing rationale in our industry.”

Instead of being paralyzed by fear, or change, the FBIC is moving forward.

Since I wrote that letter – we’ve moved forward with the tools we need to support a data-based approach to smart industry reforms. We have reputable third-party statistics and documentation to support why it’s necessary to reform the hours it takes to become licensed. We’re moving forward with a legislative strategy to make these changes a reality. Unfortunately, this important reform, is the very thing that seems to have divided our industry.

What has been lost in the sometimes heated debate, is that the Coalition’s goal since day one has always been to protect this industry from deregulation with proactive reform. A healthy industry, positioned for the future involves educators, employees, and businesses. To be clear, it’s more than just licensing hours that need to change.

Here’s our roadmap:

  1. License Mobility of a valid, current license makes sense for everyone. Many of the mobility restrictions today are tied to length of the education and the inconsistency of licensure requirements across the country. We need to remove this barrier for our professionals.
  2. National testing is a key component of licenses mobility. Testing students on the same information across state lines provides consistency and ensures accountability.
  3. Continuing Education requirement ensure that professionals are required to meet a minimum requirement for sanitation and safety. This keeps our professionals growing and learning throughout their careers, and ensures that Licensed Professionals stay current on the procedures that keep the public safe.
  4. Pre-graduate testing for students should be required. It not only gives students the opportunity to get remedial training if they fail, but allows graduates to be licensed immediately upon graduation, moving into the workforce sooner to earn wages, pay taxes, and begin repaying loans.
  5. Consistent Numbers of Hours for Licensing Across the U.S. in order to enact these reforms, and strengthen and streamline the industry we must work towards the goal of standardizing the required number of education and training hours for licensure in all states. The FBIC is recommending 1,000 hours, we acknowledge it’s up to the states to decide. We’re behind this recommendation because research and industry experience tells us that cosmetology students can graduate to be a safe, entry level practitioner at 1,000 hours, which is also consistent with the state’s mandate to protect the health and safety of its citizens.

If you remember only one thing from this letter, please remember this: the FBIC is focused on standardizing the hours it takes to meet the state’s requirements to become a safe, entry level licensed professional, not the hours it takes to become a more proficient professional. A successful career is built over time and influenced by experience, training and continuing education.

What is apparent is that reduction in hours for cosmetology licensure that is happening in many states is increasingly not being led by the industry. It’s being led by outside groups, regulators and lawmakers.

It is our desire as industry stakeholders and leaders to be part of the conversation and be part of the solution. We need to stay united as an industry, in order to be truly successful at both.

By no means do I make light of these changes. I know they are hard, I know they are disruptive. But my question to you is – do you want industry led reform or a state one? Our time is now, the storm is upon us. My ask to the entire industry — in building a future for this great industry — please be informed, be engaged, and take action. The time is now. The future of the beauty industry depends on you. Join us today at futurebeautyindustrycoalition.com/join.

Respectfully,


Steve Sleeper
Executive Director, Professional Beauty Association
Member of the Future of the Beauty Industry Coalition