By Emily Hamann
The Bellingham Business Journal
Students wanting to study cosmetology will once again have an option in Bellingham.
Starting in fall quarter Bellingham Technical College will be starting its cosmetology program. It will accept 20 new students each term, and the full degree is designed to take about five terms to complete, including summer. Students will graduate with an Associate of Applied Science degree, and will be prepared to take state licensing exams to begin work as cosmetologists.
The course will cover and include hands-on training in hair styling, cutting and coloring, as well as some basic skin and nail care. Students will also take the general education courses required for an associates degree.
More than 100 people attended information sessions held this summer for those interested in enrolling in the program.
Classes will be taught at 1411 Railroad Ave., which was previously home to two private beauty schools, Toni and Guy Hairdressing Academy and most recently Beauty Institute-Schwarzkopf, which closed suddenly last year, mid-term, with almost no notice.
Since Schwarzkopf closed, students have had to go all the way to Snohomish County to attend cosmetology school.
“Everett is the closest beauty school in this neck of the woods and that’s pretty far south,” Marni Saling Mayer, director of communications at BTC, said.
Students at many private beauty schools finish with a certificate or license, but students at BTC’s program will graduate with an associate’s degree. That means student’s education will be more well-rounded in that they won’t just know the technical skills required to cut and style hair, but they’ll also gain general math and communication skills.
“They will have quite a wide choice to enter in any one of the salons here in town,” Mayer said. They’ll also be poised to eventually be able to start their own salons.
Nationwide, there is increasing demand for stylists. The U.S. Department of Labor estimated that from now until 2026, the demand for hair stylists and barbers is expected to grow nearly twice as fast as average demand for jobs across all sectors.
BTC began looking into starting the program after Schwarzkopf shut down last year.
“Usually what our college does is when there’s a large-scale community need or inquiry, we do a deep dive study,” Mayer said. BTC had been hearing from people ever since the old beauty school shut down.
“We were getting calls, just begging,” Mayer said.
It began the study right away, and it found it would be feasible to start the school, especially because the Railroad Avenue facility was still mostly intact.
“The facility was almost complete,” Mayer said. “There were still things we had to do and are doing right now, but the building was perfect for a teaching facility and was outfitted as such.”
Kathryn Mathews, director of contract training, business engagement and continuing education at BTC, was one of the first people at BTC to see the space.
At first, she said, she didn’t think the school would be interested in taking on a new program. But then she saw that the building was already completely set up.
“It was a matter of turning on the lights and we had a school,” Mathews said.
Well, almost. There was some clean up that had to be done first. Schwarzkopf vacated the building so abruptly, that when Mathews first saw it, there were half-empty coffee cups still on tables, and projects half-way finished that were abandoned. There were dumpsters worth of used and expired product that had to be thrown away.
The whole school pitched in to help clean up.
“Across our entire campus we had people coming down here to help,” Mathews said. “You really saw the BTC family coming together.”
Mathews also heard from local salon owners, wanting to help.
“The community has been tremendously supportive,” she said. “I’ve had people calling me, like ‘what can we do’.”
Renting the building also offers new opportunities and space for the school in general.
In addition to holding four different areas for hands-on cosmetology instruction, the space also has room for three other classrooms, which will be used for general continuing education classes, including the popular residential home inspection course.
The downtown location will be more convenient for community members taking continuing education classes, and will also free up classroom space on campus.
“It’s really nice to have a presence downtown,” Mathews said.