New Spring ISD barbering program offers hands-on experience for students to earn license – Houston Chronicle

The students had finished a section about tools recently — clippers and combs instead of pencils and pens — when Jacob Lara sat on one of the chairs.

They were in a room they call “the floor,” in a facility Spring ISD’s Westfield High School opened this fall that looks like a barber shop, complete with hydraulic chairs, mirrors, hair-washing sinks and barber stations with jars of blue disinfectant solution on their countertops. Lara’s classmate put a striped mantle on him, first placing a Sanex strip around his neck.

Eros Shaw, a local barber who serves as the students’ teacher, asked a question by not finishing a sentence.

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“He did not allow the…” Shaw said, pausing.

“Cape (to) touch his neck,” a few murmurs said.

“What is it again?” Shaw asked, ensuring they understood what could happen should they forget that step.

Another few murmurs. “Cross contamination.”

“Good job, y’all,” Shaw told them.

In Shaw’s class, kids learn about the art of the barbering trade while working to earn their state license. They bounce dreams off each other in conversations about their business plans and sometimes test newly learned skills on each other under the supervision of Shaw. On a recent December afternoon they reviewed bacteria and practiced hygiene exercises like mock-washing a fellow student’s hair.

“I like that it is more of a hands-on type of thing,” said Lara, a sophomore, “rather than just book work like most classes.”

For Shaw, the collaboration with his alma mater (he graduated in 1993) has been almost 15 years in the making.

As he cut the hair of generations of young boys becoming men, he watched some of them who were not quite on board with the idea of college pursue it anyway because that was what they felt was expected of them.

“It was almost like for them to go and get a trade,” Shaw said, “they were going against the grain of what society or coach had said, ‘You have to go and get a college degree in order to be successful.’”

He recalled how he himself attended college a bit before realizing he was doing it for others and not for himself. His ultimate gift, he said he eventually realized, was cutting hair. .

In the years between that observation and now, he said, his idea to create a program with a school was rejected by several districts.

That was until last year when the Spring ISD program began after the district signed onto the idea.

“In them saying yes, what they did is they opened the door for a lot of young men and individuals to have an opportunity to pursue a career,” Shaw said. “Even if they decide to go and do something else, they will always have a trade.”

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The four-year program, which stretches three class periods every day, will teach the students barbering while slowly chipping at requirements to become licensed, such as accumulating 1,000 hours of training. By their senior year, Shaw said he plans to focus on job placement for the students, already contacting local barbershops.

In between, he aims to take the class to trade shows so the students can get an idea of what it is like to be in the industry. Once they accumulate 900 hours, they can take a written exam mandated by the state’s Department of Licensing and Regulation. At 1,000 hours, they take their practical hands-on exam, which will test the students on shaving, hair-cutting, chemical services along with the safe hygiene practices and other necessary skills.

If they pass, they will be licensed barbers.

Already, there are aspects of the course challenging students, like mastering the shears over a comb technique with the use of the correct fingers, 90-degree angle and amount of hair, said Shemar Porch, a 10th grader. He has already cut the hair of a few classmates and hopes to eventually open his own business.

“I like making people happy,” Porch said, adding that in his consultation, he’s “making sure they are comfortable and everything so they can come back.”

Shaw, who started cutting hair after a bad haircut from his mom, wants to see three things from his students: completion of the course, passage of the exams and maintenance of a good attitude to be employed in the field.

“My biggest thing, even for my students here, is that I don’t want you to feel like you have to be here. I want you to want to be here,” Shaw said. “Learning, it resonates a lot different when you look at it from that perspective.”

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