MIDWEST TECHNICAL INSTITUTE — EAST PEORIA
280 High Point Lane
East Peoria, IL 61611
MON–FRI: 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM
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280 High Point Lane
East Peoria, IL 61611
MON–FRI: 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM
Joining us on this episode is Demitria PulliN, the Cosmetology program director for Midwest Technical Institute and Delta Technical College.
Midwest Technical Institute and Delta Technical College have six locations, located in Illinois, Missouri, and Mississippi. They are accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges.
Lee Doubleday: Joining us today is Demitria Pulln, cosmetology program director of Midwest Technical Institute and Delta Technical College. Today, we would like to discuss cosmetology careers. As a leading provider in education and cosmetology, we couldn’t think of anybody better to call than Demitria Pullin with Midwest Technical Institute and Delta Technical College. Let’s start by telling our listeners exactly what a cosmetologist is. Can you briefly explain what a cosmetologist does?
Demitria Pullin: A cosmetologist is tasked with making the world beautiful. I look at it that way as the whole—everyone in the world is our palette to make beautiful, with that being hair color, hair sculpting. It’s a service that we’re able to offer everyone to make them feel good. I feel like we’re a very positive part of the world. Our industry is obviously very important. I think that COVID probably taught everyone a lesson about that. And I use that a lot with my now students, and career nights with the school, just because when we went away and everyone was put on quarantine, all the beautiful movie stars and news anchors—they all looked a bit different when they didn’t have us there to perform their hair and makeup services.
Lee: Yeah. No, you couldn’t be more right. I mean, our listeners can’t see me right now, but it looks like I got a mullet because I haven’t gotten my hair cut in a couple of months. So, it definitely doesn’t look the same as it normally does. I usually have more of a fade, but obviously, my hair has grown out. But okay. All right. Great.
I’m glad we kind of talked about what a cosmetologist does, which is essentially helping people feel beautiful. And whether that’s cutting hair—“Is there more to cosmetology than just cutting hair?” would be a question I would ask you. If somebody were to say, “Well, a cosmetologist is really a hairdresser,” what would you say to somebody who said that?
Demitria: No. We’re not just a hairdresser. I look at it—we’re artists. We’re able to take hair color, we see shapes, we see design. We take that and use the head and hair as a palette to create a look that we visually see. And we’re able to put that together with our hands, so it’s an outward something someone else can see. And I strongly believe that everyone has a best that they can look, and that’s our job to provide that.
Lee: I like that. “Everyone has a best that they can look.” Okay. Well, now that we kind of talked about what a cosmetologist does, what does the career outlook look like for cosmetologists, maybe both at a national level and then a little more granular, where Midwest Tech and Delta Tech have campuses?
Demitria: By 2029, the BLS [Bureau of Labor Statistics] projected that there will be a need to hire over 641,000 cosmetologists across the country. In Illinois, Missouri, and Mississippi alone, where we have campuses, the BLS predicts the need for 41,490 cosmetologists in that same time period. So that’s pretty huge.
Lee: Wow. Yeah, that’s a lot of cosmetologists needed across the country. Seems like something worth getting an education in. So, I have sort of a three-parted question for you. And the first is, should someone go to school to learn how to become a cosmetologist? I think the answer is yes, but I’ll let you answer it.
Demitria: Absolutely. To me, it’s very important. And I work a lot on the state board levels as well. And what I hear the most—nationally and locally—is the need for sanitation. It is huge. It’s one of those things—we teach that in school. That’s a huge part of what we’re teaching you, to be safe, to use properly sanitized implements, because we are at risk for spreading disease and disorders around the world without knowing that proper sanitation. You don’t get that just working in your kitchen, which is a funny way to say it but we call it that, kitchen beauticians. In training, someone needs to teach you how to do these things properly so that we’re creating a safe place for people to come and receive these services and not to have disease—so many things. Think about nail care alone. When you’re putting your feet in a tub that someone else has had their feet in, if they have fungus or anything like that, and it’s not properly sanitized, that is going to be transferred from one person to another. So, it’s important to know how to perform proper sanitation.
Lee: Yeah, I think you’re right. And to further your point, I don’t think I would want my hair cut by somebody that didn’t have an education in what it is that they’re doing. And I know there are certain credentials that, in order to become a cosmetologist, you have to have. But having an education, ultimately, just helps you be able to pass those certifications so that you can become employable, which is the end goal there. Okay, cool.
So, what does a typical cosmetology program include as far as the different—maybe there’s a hairdressing component to it. There’s a barbering component to it. There’s, like you just mentioned, nails and—
Lee: Yes, esthetics. Yes. And how long is a typical cosmetology program?
Demitria: So, cosmetology encompasses all hair, skin, and nail services. Our program mainly focuses on hair. I hate to put a number on it, but about 80% of our program is going to be in hair care. Those services are going to be hairstyling—that would be long hairstyling, wet hairstyling, thermal hairstyling, haircutting, perming, relaxing, hair color, hair additions—which is a big trend now with wigs, and we teach that as well. Then you’re also going to receive the nail care. So that would be natural nail care, like manicures, pedicures. We also do the artificial nails—both acrylic or gel nails. Then we would also offer, in skin, the waxing and facials. So, we touched briefly on the nails and skin but focus a lot on the hair services.
Lee: Gotcha. Is it more of a focus on hair services because just the complexity of all the different things that go along with being a hairstylist, or is it more demand driven? Why would you say that 85% of the curriculum is focused around hair?
Demitria: Because of the chemicals that we use with the hair colors, relaxers, the perms, we go in-depth on those with electricity, chemistry. It’s important to know how all of those things function. When we’re mixing chemicals together, what’s that reaction going to be? There’s a lot that goes into the hair side that—not so much on the skin side, but when you’re doing haircutting, it’s important to know the mathematical side of that.
I do feel—going on a tangent here, but I feel like sometimes cosmetology doesn’t get the credit it deserves because of the extra things people do need to learn with haircutting—the math side in hair color, knowing how many ounces of what developer to mix with a certain color—but also because our hair colors—there are so many colors in the world, and we take three basic primary colors and make all these colors in the whole world—it’s important to know how much of each one it takes to do these services. So, a little science behind it.
Lee: Yeah, that’s interesting. I’m glad you brought that up, actually, because I wasn’t expecting the call to kind of go this way. But can you talk a little bit about the math part of cutting hair? It’s something I just never really would have thought about until you just mentioned it.
Demitria: Numbers are very important. I laugh when we’re in the student salon, and we have clients come in, and you’ll hear the client say, “Well, I want it over my ear.” It’s one of the greatest things we teach in the classroom because what is “over the ear”? Does that mean completely over the ear or completely covering over the ear. So, it’s important when we’re teaching the students to do consultations—or even in the salon—proper consultations for everything. That makes or breaks your service. So, when you’re going into measurements, you need to know what an inch is to your client, and what an inch is to you. When you tell me you want an inch of hair cut off, I know mathematically my inch, to where your client’s inch may be half an inch.
But besides all of that, measurements, as far as our hair color and such, we use weights. We weigh our color. Everything is done by ounces. Because we do have to use so many different colors to make a combination, it’s important to know how many ounces or what measurement on each one—even our perms, our chemical relaxers, everything—you’ve got to have good basic math skills to be able to do the subtraction, addition, everything—multiplication—to come up with these solutions for your products and formulations. I guess that’s the word I’m trying to dig out there. The formulations all require—they’re all different.
Lee: Huh! Yeah. So essentially what you’re saying is, if you want to make brown hair color, you have to add a certain weight of yellow and a certain weight of red and blue in order to make that particular hair color that person’s looking for. Or you have to make, I think you said, hair relaxer. Whatever it is, there’s a mathematic equation to the proper amount to put into somebody’s hair to give them the results that they’re looking for.
Demitria: Yes. Absolutely. And even on just the structure of the hair, which we cover that very in depth, that makes a big difference too. Because we all, as people, are unique, so our underlying pigments that we have, our hair color—that takes a big deciding factor in formulating your hair color. Like your example using brown, it isn’t just about what color we put in the bowl, the artificial color, but what lies underneath that’s naturally in the hair. We have to also complement that color or neutralize that. So there’s a lot of—
Lee: Yeah. Nuances.
Lee: Right. Yeah. I can tell what you’re saying. And now that I’m thinking about it, I think an education is the most important thing that you could get for this industry because it only takes one mistake—
Lee: —to the client, and potentially other clients, because they heard about this mistake. So, with it being that way—and also so socially driven. I mean, somebody gets a good haircut, the first thing they do is post it on social media. They talk about you as the haircutter and also whatever the establishment is that you work for.
Lee: And that goes a long way. And that’s without even talking about the marketing aspect of being a cosmetologist. I could see why having an education so that you’re making sure that you get the correct formulas put together to make the correct hair color on the person’s hair, taking into consideration their current hair color, what that base is, and then putting together or concocting the correct hair color for them, is a complicated process that I don’t think people—either they don’t give credit for or don’t know about, myself included. Now, I will say, I am a guy who goes to a barber, so I’m probably very new to all of this that we’re talking about. But I think that just in general, the public doesn’t fully understand the math and science, like you said, that goes into being a cosmetologist. I’m glad you brought that up.
Okay. Now, let’s say I’m a student, and I’m interested in cosmetology, when I tour a campus offering this program, what are a few things that I should be looking for? Because it seems like a program such as this is going to require up-to-date equipment so that I know what’s in the salons, or what’s currently being used in the salons or the barbers, and you had already mentioned sanitization. But what are some other things I should be looking for as far as accreditation or maybe the length of program or, most importantly, the relationships with the local employers? Can you kind of run down a list of, “Hey, if you’re a student interested in cosmetology and you’re about to tour a campus, here are some things you should look for,” like a checklist?
Demitria: Yes. Sure. Definitely, equipment is important. And for us, we hold two PAC [program advisory committee] meetings a year. We still have staff in the field as well as guest speakers. We’re always looking from the outside to critique us on what we have. So, we keep up-to-date equipment. What’s happening with our students? What do you see the other students doing when you’re touring our campus? It’s important that when you’re doing a tour that they’re engaged—they’re engaged, they look like they’re having fun because it should be fun. Another thing that I feel is important is, is it diverse? Diversity is very important. That is something that we definitely promote in our schools and across our campuses. You’re going to see a diverse group, as well as a diverse group of clientele that we bring into our salon. We pride ourself in our students that we put out into the industry. They know how to perform any service, regardless, based on diversity.
And the whole goal, obviously, of coming to school for a career is to go to work. Definitely ask about the relationship with employers. I can tell you, for our schools, we’re out there. We’re hitting the pavement. We have placement coordinators who get out and have work relationships with the salons. We’re in communication with them all the time. We bring them in as guest speakers. It’s important for students to see that. I want a student to see from day one, “This is where I’m headed. This is what I’m going to do.” They’re part of what builds the excitement in our programs. They see us every day. When you’re in this—when you’re in a program 1,500 hours and you see your instructor every day for 1,500 hours, it’s a lot when we have someone from the industry come in and they’re respected. They look up to them because that’s where they’re headed.
Lee: Yeah. I couldn’t agree more. And I like what you said. I mean, the whole point of going to a career school is to step into a career. And, so, making sure that the school has relationships with employers is really important. The other thing that you mentioned, which I thought was interesting, was about diversity. And why that’s important is essentially you wouldn’t want to be working at a salon or behind one of the chairs and, depending on the clientele that comes in, not knowing how to cut certain hair. And you talked about how your students are prepared or trained on the diversity that could be potentially walking into the door to get a haircut. Can you talk a little bit about that? I mean, what does that mean? Does that mean part of your hairstylist training is talking about different types of hair?
Demitria: Yes. So, it is different types of hair based on hair texture. Styles are created differently on hair based on the hair texture. Really coarse hair is going to require more heat, to where fine hair is going to require less heat. You go into doing the same style on those two, you’re going to have one that you could potentially melt the hair based off the heat that you’re going to require for that more coarse hair. But it’s the same. The products that we use when we’re shampooing hair, some hair we’re going to need to use a more—a shampoo with more moisture and to where more fine hair we’re going to use one that has a more alcohol base, I would say, that’s lighter, has less conditioning components. But it makes a big difference. Even the styling tools, the styling aides that we use. You can weigh the hair down—when you have fine hair, you don’t want to weigh the hair down, but then when you have coarse hair you want to put that extra moisture into the hair to obviously make it smooth.
Lee: Yeah. That’s interesting. That’s another thing I think people don’t typically think about with cosmetology programs is the necessity of learning how to deal with different types of hair. That’s cool. I’m glad we talked about that. Okay.
Demitria: Yeah. And I can add, too, even—
Lee: Yeah. Go ahead.
Demitria: When you get into the color of hair, that’s just as important as the texture of the hair but the color of hair. And when you take students learning to cut hair for the first time when you have your really dark hair or your really light hair, they’re going to show lines in the hair more than a person who has a medium texture and a medium color hair, so then—also then your straight and your curly. There are so many different textures. And they’re trained on no matter what sits in their chair, they have an instructor with them right there to help guide them and direct them along the way so that they achieve the results the client is wanting. And it helps the student to be comfortable because they’re career training. One day that training’s going to end. And they’re going to leave. And they’re going to be in the salon. So, they’re going to have those experiences to look back on and go, “Oh, I remember what she said that day. I know how to handle this.”
Lee: Yeah. Exactly. Okay. Now let’s say I’m someone wondering if I would make a good cosmetologist. What would you say are three or four personality traits—because you see them every day. I mean, you’re with the students all the time. What would you say are three to four personality traits that make a great cosmetologist? It might help identify someone who is thinking maybe this would be a good career fit for them but would like to know or verify or confirm for themselves that, “Yes. These are three or four personality traits that I have. I think I would make a great cosmetologist.”
Demitria: Right. My number one personality trait is going to be a passion for beauty. You got to have that, number one. Being dedicated and having a positive attitude is also going to take someone a long way. You’re dealing with people every day, which brings me to my third—a people person, being outgoing. You’ve got to be able to talk. You’ve got to be able to keep people engaged while they’re in your chair. I hate to add another one but, because we are an ever-changing industry, being acceptable to change. If you’re not a person that accepts change easily, this may not be the industry for you because it’s going to change.
Lee: Yeah, all good points. All right. Great. Well, we had an awesome conversation with Demitria Pullin, cosmetology program director of Midwest Technical Institute and Delta Technical College. We talked about the career outlook for cosmetology. We talked about the type of program that you may expect, as far as going to school for a cosmetology program, what’s included in that. We learned a little bit more about the math and the science that goes into it and also the diversity of different types of hair that go into it. And we also learned what makes a good cosmetology program or things you should be looking at as well, a couple of personality traits that makes a good cosmetologist.
For now, I just like—I would like to thank Demitria Pullin for her time to speak with us today and encourage all of you to go to our website, which is www.imagine-america/podcast, for more information on this podcast, how to learn more information about Midwest Technical Institute and Delta Technical Colleges’ programs, and the cosmetology program.
Thank you, Demitria. I wish you all a great day. And goodbye.