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Helena College plans first public cosmetology program in Montana

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Helena College

Helena College offers more than 30 diverse degree and certificate programs on two campuses.

Helena College plans to start a program in the fall of 2023 that could put a new face not only on education, but perhaps the entire community -- and Montana -- as well.

Sandra Bauman, dean and chief executive officer, said the college plans to launch a cosmetology program that will train 45 students per year and be available to the public.

“It is going to give us a good opportunity to serve our community, not only for the training needs, but also to provide low-cost cosmetology services…” she said.

She told members of Hometown Helena, a grassroots community group, on Thursday that Helena College selected cosmetology because there are no public training offerings in Helena and the college can provide such training at a lower cost for people looking to enter the field. 

She said there is another advantage in that it will provide a “stackable credential” with transferable credits for anyone who wants to continue their education.

“It really does fit our mission to serve our entire community,” she said, adding the goal of the two-year college is to serve employers and students in the area.

Bauman said the school is not trying to compete with other academic institutions in the state for a limited number of students.

“We do try to focus on programs at the two-year college that are unique,” she said, adding it is the only public option for this training in the state. 

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Sandra Bauman, dean and chief executive officer of Helena College.

Bauman said one of the college’s advisory board members works for a corporation that owns several salons.

“I have seen how not having a cosmetology school/program has directly affected the Helena salons,” the advisory board member said, adding they own 40 salons in Idaho, Montana, Washington and Wyoming. “Helena is the hardest city for us to recruit in for this exact reason.”

The board member said the COVID-19 pandemic has not only impacted revenues, but brought staffing shortages as well.

Bauman’s presentation included a slide that said the Department of Labor and Industry says Montana has a shortage of 640 cosmetologists now, and that is expected to increase to 800 by 2028.

She said it is a great opportunity for the college, from a space perspective. She said they recently moved their fire and emergency services program to the airport campus. That has opened 4,500 square feet of “wide open space” at the campus at 1115 N. Roberts St.

“This will give us a great opportunity to create a beautiful salon and the classroom and additional practice space we need to have a really nice facility,” Bauman said, adding the structure would include a storefront.

She said it would minimize construction costs because the fire bay was wide open.

She said the college is working with other public colleges that offer training to come up with a curriculum and seeking approval from the Montana Board of Cosmetology, adding that workers must be licensed by the state. She said the college has formed an advisory council of local industry professionals, is looking for a director for the program, and applied for American Rescue Plan (ARPA) funding to help with the program. She said it would move forward with or without ARPA funds.

She said they hope to start construction this summer, and it will take about a year. They will start recruiting for students for fall of 2023.

Eventually there will be about 45 students in the program. The college will then consider expanding the program to include barbering and aesthetician services.

John Cech, president of Carroll College, complimented Bauman for being responsive to community needs, not only in Helena, but all of Montana.

“A great job, this is really exciting,” he said.

Assistant editor Phil Drake can be reached at 406-231-9021.

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