Stacy Shuman loves working as a hairstylist. She received her training in Chicago, and worked in some of the Windy City’s most high-end salons. But after years of living around hustle and bustle, she was hoping to settle down someplace a little smaller.
Her partner, Christine, was originally from Nebraska, so they made the leap and relocated to Lincoln.
But as eager as Stacy was to continue her career doing hair in Nebraska, the state wasn’t as quick to welcome her. Although Stacy was already licensed to practice cosmetology in Illinois, Nebraska state law created barriers to her credentials being accepted.
First, she said it took about 2 months for her licensing paperwork to be processed.
“That was really stressful,” Stacy said.
But once the paperwork was complete, the wait only got longer. Illinois requires 1,500 classroom hours of training to be licensed for cosmetology. Most states require that many or less. Nebraska is one of only a few states that require 2,100 hours, the highest hourly requirement in the country.
After the state’s Cosmetology Board added together Stacy’s training and work experience, she was told she would have to go back to cosmetology school for an additional 200 training hours. Not only did this leave Stacy unable to begin working at the same job she was doing in Illinois, it meant she had to pay more for the privilege of starting. She enrolled in a local cosmetology school, which cost about $1,800 for an additional month of training.
Some opponents of occupational licensing reform say Nebraska’s licensing requirements are the bare minimum needed to assure competent people are doing hair. But at the training school, Stacy said instructors acknowledged that she was already skilled enough to be working, and that it was just one of those rules they had to follow.
“I didn’t want to go back, I just wanted to do hair,” Stacy said. “It was really frustrating. The instructors said, ‘We know you’re a hairdresser and that you know what you’re doing,’ but this is what they require,” Stacy said.
Stacy understands that many of her colleagues in Nebraska oppose occupational licensing reform out of the concern that it would invite unqualified people into their industry. She hopes her story explains how Nebraska’s requirements can put red tape in the way of qualified stylists.
“Most states only require around 1,500 hours to do hair. Do you really think most of the country is less educated than you?” Stacy asks.
Stacy plans to support Legislative Bill 343, which addresses burdensome requirements placed on many careers, including cosmetology and barbering. It would align Nebraska’s minimum classroom requirement for these professions with most other states. Schools of cosmetology would still be able advertise additional skills they can teach stylists with extended training.
Stacy’s own work with nonprofits that teach hairstyling to women abroad has also inspired her to inform members of her profession about another possible stepping stone to the industry: apprenticeships. In addition to cosmetology school training, some cosmetologists pursue their license through time spent learning under another stylist, which can be more accessible to learners who may not have the financial means to attend a formal school.
A legislative hearing will be held for LB343 on March 1 in Lincoln. Learn more about how LB343 affects cosmetology and barbering here, and sign our petition to stay informed about how you can help hardworking Nebraskans like Stacy.
Sign our petition and tell the Legislature to Let Nebraskans Work!