In a large, white-tiled studio space sectioned with glass walls in a Plano strip mall, a group of high school students sit at a January open house, deciding whether they want to study styling and hairdressing for the next two years.
They’re aspiring cosmetologists, learning about a first-of-its-kind program sponsored by Toni & Guy, in one of the British beauty dynasty’s few hairdressing academy locations in Texas.
The partnership program with Plano Independent School District begins later this year. Accepted students will graduate from any of Plano’s three senior high schools as fully licensed cosmetologists.
Vines High School sophomore Shakira Chukes said she’s already applied for the next academic year.
“I was actually looking for programs that would help me go into cosmetology,” she said. “And then I found out that Toni & Guy was doing something, so I wanted to do it because I heard they’re really good.”
Those students who are accepted into the trade program will hope to join a Texas workforce of more than 30,000 people: Texas employed the most hairdressers, hairstylists and cosmetologists of any state in 2020.
But of the states with the largest cosmetology workforces, Texans earned the least, making just over $26,000 on average.
Still, young people are interested. With beginner resources like YouTube and TikTok, cosmetologists with passion and savvy can build up foundational skills before even stepping foot in a school. That’s what Maleea Halbert did.
“I’ve always been the type of friend that, like, wherever we’re going, someone wants me to curl their hair or braid it or do something to style it,” she said.
Halbert studied music in college for three years, but left school during the pandemic and decided to pursue cosmetology full time.
Now she’s part of the academy, and at the open house, she answered questions from students like Shakira who are hoping to be in her place someday.
“I envy their position a little bit because I’m like, I wish I had this opportunity when I was in high school to be able to, right out the gate, jump into a career that you can be really successful in,” Halbert said.