Women or men who want to become beauticians can either learn on the job or take a training course. A simple Facebook or Google search shows up a number of training institutes in different cities across the country.
Among these, the top result of the search is courses offered by the Technical Education and Vocational Training Authority also known as TEVTA. A branch of the organisation exists in each province, offering similar courses. The one for beauticians is largely geared towards women, often advertised that way and offered in female-only training centres.
One such centre is snuggled in Lahore’s Delhi Gate at the end of ‘phullan wali gali’. “Girls watch videos on YouTube so that develops their interest in the field,” says Warda Afzal, the principal at TEVTA.
The class size is small here; 10 girls have started a 1-year diploma in the hopes of kick-starting their careers. The class includes basic ethics and computer literacy. “We want these girls to be able to communicate in English with the clientele that comes in at beauty parlours,” says Afzal.
The classroom is plain; the salon chairs, still covered in their packing material, line the wall; two mirrors are placed horizontally on the window ledge and students sit on wooden chairs, threading each other’s arms. This is their second day in the course. Their teacher, Syeda Zeenat Abbas, says that they start teaching them threading on the arms as it is the easiest, and there’s less chance of an accident.
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Abbas has six years of experience as a beautician and has also worked in a salon. As a teacher at TEVTA, she is confident that these girls will be able to find jobs based on what they learn at the institute.
The average age of students in the class is 20 years. Most girls want to establish a business of their own. “My parents won’t let me go outside the house to work but this I can run a small salon from my house,” says 20-year-old Sehar Ashraf.
Most of them have cousins, brothers, sisters or other family members who have taken similar courses or worked at beauty parlours. They know that this is hard work with long hours, but they are confident that they will earn good money.
What is important for these girls when seeking a job is having a portfolio to showcase their work and skills; TEVTA helps them create this portfolio.
TEVTA is not the only institution that offers such courses but it is the only one that does so free of cost. They even provide students with the products they will be using on customers. In most other courses, students have to buy the products out of their own pockets.
Some of these courses are sponsored by companies that create beauty products, such as the Femina Institute in Lahore. The institution also functions in various cities across the country but is mostly focused in Sindh and Punjab. Their basic course starts from Rs10,000. Sarwar, the manager at Femina’s Lahore chapter says that most female students who come to them want to set up their own businesses.
Most of these private institutions don’t speak too highly of the cheaper courses, and those offered by TEVTA. “They are affordable but a waste of time,” says Waqas TK, an administrator at the Lahore Beauty College run by Keune.
Their courses start with a fee of Rs50,000 and he says, they register women from all backgrounds in the beauty industry. The women taking the courses seem satisfied by what they are being taught. When I visit the place, all five of them are learning the technique for Keratin treatment. None of them want to work at a beauty parlour, they all want to start their own business.
Ifra Zahid, 22, is also a student at Lahore Beauty College, and she is all geared up to start her own parlour. She already has some experience as her mother owns a salon in Arifwala, Lahore. She says the girls who work at her mother’s parlour come untrained and there’s only so much they can learn there . “We can’t teach them everything at the parlour,” she says adding, “The smarter ones pick up things by watching us.”
This is where training courses come in. Waqas Waheed says they are more helpful for women who want to improve their skills as opposed to those who are just starting out. “These women aren’t taught anything at the parlours. They’ll learn basic things like how to apply hair dye but the mixing itself is not done by them,” he says.
Most women taking these courses aren’t doing so because they expect to get jobs out of them. They are taking these courses to learn skills they can then use to set up something of their own.
“It is a skill I have; that I can just practise from my home,” says Shumaila Suleman who runs a salon at home. She has been trained through private courses. “I can’t really work outside my house because I have to take care of my children and I need flexible work hours,” she says.