COLUMBUS, Ohio — A bill in the Ohio legislature aims to reduce the number of hours needed to obtain licenses to become a barber, cosmetologist or hair designer.
Inside this Brooklyn Great Clips salon, Lori Cathcart handles a wide range of jobs from the business side to sweeping the floors. It's part of a career that started at a young age.
“My next-door neighbor had a salon at the end of our street and she was our mother’s hairstylist," Cathcart said. "So by the time I was 12, I was going down to the salon, cleaning homes with brushes, sweeping hair, answering phones, running neighborhood errands for the stylists who worked there. I knew that’s what I wanted to be right from that time.”
In Mentor, Nancy Brown checks in on one of her students inside a school and salon that for decades, has been her passion.
“It’s my life’s mission to give people opportunity," she said. "That’s what it is. Our friends ask us ‘when are we going to retire?’ My husband and I are in business together. ‘When are we going to retire?’ We say, ‘never’ because it’s such an exciting thing to give people opportunity.”
In Mayfield Heights, instructor Waverly Willis is here a couple of days a week on top of running his own barbershop, so he can help train the next generation.
“It has afforded me to work for myself. That’s the most important thing,” said Willis. “Since I can make my own schedule up, I can be here two to three days out of the week and that’s important to me. That’s important to our students.”
The three have about a century of experience in the industry. But they have different perspectives on legislation that would change it.
Senate Bill 133 would reduce the number of hours needed for a barber license in Ohio from 1,800 hours to 1,000; for a cosmetologist license, from 1,500 to 1,000; and for a hair designer license from 1,200 to 800.
Cathcart, a franchisee for over a decade, hopes the bill will get students working sooner.
“We find that 80% of what a student knows, they actually learn in the salon. So the faster we can get them in a salon, the more they can get hands-on, real-life training,” Cathart said.
Currently, Pennsylvania and New York require fewer hours for a cosmetology license. And Cathcart believes the bill will help reduce student debt and make Ohio more competitive with other states.
But there has been pushback from some within the industry.
Willis, who’s also president of the Ohio Barber and Beauty Alliance, said students need the current required hours to be able to learn the necessary skills to not only work in a barbershop but also run a business.
“If we strip these young people down and not make them, not give them the skillset upon graduation and getting a barber license to work in a shop like mine or any other barbershop that needs highly trained barbers, there’s only one place to go, the chains,” said Willis.
And for Brown, she believes the hours are needed in a field that involves chemicals and multiple other skills.
“It could take somebody three or four hours to wrap a permanent wave or two or three hours to do a foil on somebody’s hair the first time they do it, so if you got a brand new student, they have to practice that several times to be able to get a grip on how to do it,” said Brown.
The bill has been referred to the Small Business and Economic Opportunity Committee. Similar legislation has been introduced in other legislative sessions but has yet to pass.