Proposal would eliminate Wisconsin license for hair stylists

Proponents say there is too much regulation
Posted at 6:56 PM, May 01, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-02 09:51:42-04

In the state of Wisconsin, cosmetologists and barbers are required to be licensed to practice, however, one group is hoping to change that with a new bill.

Mike Nichols, President of the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute said Wisconsin is overly burdensome by regulating professions that shouldn't need it, like cosmetologists and barbers.

"We have a lot of folks who have not had the opportunity and have not had jobs and have not been able to create businesses," Nichols said. "Government has been an impediment to that with regulations they impose on a wide variety of professions."

"It really comes from people who want the opportunity and are being denied it," Nichols also said. "Right now, in this state, if you want to be a cosmetologist you have to complete 1,550 hours of training. If you want to be a manager of a small salon, it's another 2,000 hours. As an alternative, up to 4,000 hours of an apprenticeship. These folks we talk to them and they say, we're doing something important. We're cutting hair but we're not saving lives."

The licensing effort is one small part of the proposal. As mentioned above, Nichols hopes to decrease the hours required to be certified as a manager and allow stylists to cut hair off-site. Another big issue is people who get an education out of state are not able to become certified in Wisconsin when they move here; something even opponents can get on board with.

"I think there are some really good points to this bill," said Lori Paul, Owner and Director of Paul Mitchell, The School. "I love that there will be more reciprocity between ourselves and Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota. That makes us more viable for a market for people to come for a job."

But when it comes to "just cutting hair" Paul says it's deeper than that.

"There are shears that are very sharp," Paul said. "They need to know how to operate properly. The chemicals can cause certain reactions if you don't know enough about a person's scalp. If you don't know how to properly disinfect a pedicure bowl, so many people get staph infections from those situations. What the schools are here to do is to give that basic knowledge so they're going into a salon and they're not going to cost a lawsuit down the line."

"We deal with so many very volatile chemicals that not knowing how these chemicals work, you can physically burn someone's scalp and burn their hair off in a matter of seconds," said Cory Brunner, Education Leader & Lead Cutting Specialist. "I would never want to take my car to someone who's not a certified mechanic. I wouldn't want to go to someone who's not licensed to do these services."

However, it can be costly to attend a school like Paul Mitchell. Paul says it's about $16,000 for the program. However, if attending full-time, the future professionals can finish the program in under a year to get into the field sooner, therefore getting paid sooner.

The alternative? Four thousand hours as an apprentice. So for the future professionals, the choice was easy.

"Anyone can cut hair with kitchen scissors," said Maddison Hinrichsen, a future professional at Paul Mitchell, The School. "But you don't know how to do it right. So definitely. You need a license. It's dangerous. They don't know what they're working with until they get an idea."

Nichols argues the reason those in the field don't want the change is because they're afraid of new competition.

"Some government regulation is appropriate if it's a health and safety measure," Nichols said. "Most of the people who are opposed to lessening the regulations don't want the competition from other folks. We're for more competition in this state. We're for more jobs. We're for better businesses and more business."

The bill proposal will go to the executive committee on May 3. They will decide whether or not to send it to the full committee to vote.

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