Aspiring hair stylists in Nova Scotia will soon be able to snip their way to becoming licensed in this province with a new apprenticeship program set to launch in February.

The program is open to anyone with a Grade 12 education or equivalent, but it's expected to particularly help refugees, immigrants and people who live in remote areas of Nova Scotia.

The program is an alternative to standard hair-styling schools. Apprentices will not have to pay tuition to enroll, and will only be charged minimal fees for kits or other requirements.

"Mostly, these fees can be covered by working at the salon because they'll be getting an income as they're training," said Dana Sharkey, executive director of the Cosmetology Association of Nova Scotia, which created the program in partnership with the Nova Scotia Apprenticeship Agency.

Apprentices will be required to work under a licensed and qualified hair stylist for up to three years, and to attend blocks of technical training at the Nova Scotia Community College.

Reaching out to immigrants

Apprentices will be able to train at a salon closest to them. So far, 29 salons have applied for the program, and the association hopes there will be more in the coming months.

The program will offer a more affordable path into the field for refugees and immigrants, and the association has reached out to Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia to let it know about it.

The cosmetology association will accept any hair-styling experience a refugee or immigrant has outside of the country and integrate that in their learning.

"Once we see what they can do and that they can prove that they have a particular skill, then they would be exempt from that area," said Sharkey.

Hair cutting

(Robert Short/CBC)

The association also expects apprenticeships to help the cosmetology industry grow in remote areas and provide young people with jobs. It's also hoped the job experience will breed loyalty and help salons retain their new employees.

"This opens up a whole new avenue for people to be able to train in their location because they may not be able to afford to come to HRM or go to another area because of finances or family," Sharkey said.

But Sharkey said the program won't hurt existing hair-styling education programs.

"Hair-styling school programs are always going to be the quicker pathway for people to become a hair stylist," she said.

Hair styling

(Robert Short/CBC)

First Choice Haircutters in Halifax is one of the hair salons that will take on an apprentice in February.

"It will be very exciting to have that opportunity for people to come in and see if this is really the career that they want," said Katy Wallace, a hair stylist who has been assigned to be the mentor at the salon.

Wallace will be teaching customer service, hair cutting, colouring and other skills to the apprentice.

"As a mentor, you should always be up on education, on new styles, on new trends because they change all the time," she said. 

She hopes to show apprentices that hair styling is a rewarding career.

"Once you've completed everything and you've made that client happy with their appearance, then that uplifts so much."