Graduation and the trades

High school graduation promises so many options to the graduates: college, work, boot camp or time to travel. Some organized graduates map out detailed, specific plans for college, summer jobs, internships and career. Many initiate those plans only to realize life does not always go as planned.

Occasionally, I meet such students when I allow a cosmetology student to use my hair for learning their trade. As the student cuts, I often ask, “Do you have a job ready when you finish with your schooling?’ Some already have a salon, a friend with a shop or company awaiting them. Others hope to find a job after they receive their license. Recently I encountered two college graduates with bachelor degrees in art who are now learning to do hair.

  My chatty art student said, “I always wanted to go to cosmetology school, but right after high school I didn’t want to live at home. I wanted to get away. So I decided to go to the same college where my parents attended.” For four years she said she had a grand time acquiring lifelong friends, discovering an adult lifestyle and exploring her love of art. She studied art, did well, had a show and now sells her paintings through Facebook postings. Sometimes she paints on commission. “It would be great to only paint what I want, but I need money,” she said.

To attract customers she videos herself painting the finished project she then offers for sale. She said, “Ideally I would like to be able to have the beauty shop job supplement the art I sell.” For now, she hedges her bets by attending cosmetology school during the day and working on painting at night.

          As she worked on my hair, the artist/beautician pointed to the adjacent chair where another student clipped a man’s white hair. “That’s her dad. She’s also an art major.” This makes sense since the best beauticians have an artistic touch.

            Before marching to the repetitive mantra: “go to college, get a degree and a good job” it might be advisable to slow down. Stop and consider the massive cost of college. Higher learning offers opportunities to more deeply understand history, English, science or math and has its benefits. Pursuing those topics can be a lifelong learning quest rather than a frantic, four-year cram-session of ideas soon forgotten. Weigh the college benefits and debts against the training time and future income for hands-on jobs in technical trades such as construction, computers and cosmetology. Nationally we need electricians, plumbers, bricklayers, welders and yes, beauticians. All those jobs require hands-on training along with classroom time and tests for certifications and licenses.

At the same time, the nation desperately needs nurses in hospitals and teachers in classrooms. Both are professions that require a college education. That need increased following the exodus of veteran nurses and teachers through the covid crisis and disagreements. At a school for future beauticians I met a former teacher. Her mom had taught for decades and enjoyed it. Happily following in her mother’s footsteps, the student earned her degree and enjoyed teaching for several years. Then covid quarantine and rules changed everything for her.

The online teaching and disruptions exhausted her. “Coordinating the students, homework, screen time, lessons, parental input and administrative work left me burnt out,” she said. Covid pushed her to reconsider her second career choice. Now she plans to interact with one person at a time sitting quietly in the chair as she deftly trims their hair. That is not where she planned to be the day she finished high school. It is definitely where she wants to be now.

About jottingjoan

retired former newspaper writer. Many children and grandchildren. One husband.
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