After spending four years trying to find the right job, Emily Metzger decided it was time for a different approach. Metzger graduated in 2005 from Kansas University with a degree in graphic design; however, even with a four-year degree, finding a job did not prove as easy as she thought it would.
Metzger has been laid off twice since her graduation, most recently last May. It was then that she decided to pursue a different career path and attend a trade school.
"I didn’t see the layoffs coming," Metzger said. "Searching for jobs and not finding any was getting frustrating after awhile so I decided I wanted something more secure."
So Metzger enrolled at Z Hair Academy.
Time and job security were the main factors leading her to enroll in a trade school. With a poor economy and stressful job market, others are turning to trade schools as well.
Judi McKenzie, co-owner of Z, said that the program usually takes about 11 months and that there is basically 0 percent unemployment in cosmetology. Currently, about 45 students are enrolled at Z, and McKenzie said most of those students will leave the program with a job.
In McKenzie’s opinion, trade schools are more popular now than in previous years, and the economy is one reason why.
“Due to the current economic situation, people are looking for an alternative to jobs that have gone away,” McKenzie said. “A trade school is a good alternative because you can get through school quickly and get into the job market faster.”
No work worries
According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, overall employment for barbers, cosmetologists and other personal-appearance workers is projected to grow by 20 percent from 2008 to 2018, much faster than the 13 percent average for all occupations.
“People are always going to need a haircut,” Metzger said. “Work doesn’t disappear when times are bad. Everyone still wants to look good.”
Heather Case, a recent Z graduate, had a job lined up three and a half months before graduation. She said she agrees that trade schools create better job security but has noticed some changes.
“People are stretching their haircuts out — maybe instead of every four weeks they will get one every six weeks,” Case said.
She said luxury items such as manicures, pedicures and brow waxes have gone down as well. Instead, she said, people are opting to do their own nails or trim their own bangs. But even though clients may be stretching appointments out, Case said she never has to worry about having work.
A ‘focused amount of time’
Besides trade schools, more people are looking to career education and job certification programs for job security.
The Pinnacle Career Institute in Lawrence offers five different programs, ranging from massage therapy to wind turbine technician. The 11-month medical assistant program is the largest with 50 members, followed by the nine-month massage therapy program with 40. The job placement rate over the last three years for both programs is around 81 percent. The three-year average of all programs is around 77 percent.
Reports from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that massage therapy employment is expected to increase by 19 percent from 2008 to 2018.
Jeremy Cooper, executive director of Pinnacle Career Institute, said the institute is constantly adding new programs to accommodate people looking for alternative ways of increasing their education and training. He said career-training programs are absolutely more popular now than previous years.
“If someone gets laid off it’s hard to say, ‘I’m going to go back to school right now in mid-life and engage in four years of study,’” Cooper said. “Here we offer quality education in a very focused amount of time.”
Metzger will be graduating for the second time next month, but this time with a brighter job outlook. She said that thanks to her decision to go to a trade school, finding a job will be a lot easier this time around.