ALTERNATIVES TO ATTENDING AN ONSITE SCHOOL
Unlike the hair styling industry for people attending an approved school for specified training is not required in any U.S. state. It is unfortunate that anyone can call themselves a groomer by buying some grooming tools. They may need a local business license or other paper regulations to take money for services, but there is no required training in actual hands-on grooming experience.
Realistically, many potential groomers cannot attend an onsite school. In some states there may only be one school for pet grooming, even none. The industry faced this reality starting in the Nineties with pioneers creating home study alternatives and continued to improve alternative methods. You cannot replace the value of having one-on-one onsite school training with great teachers supervising you, but home study vendors are doing their best and do evaluate your work. Today there are sources for streaming education as part of home study thanks to the Internet.
If you don’t know if pet grooming is right for you taking a home study could help you to discover your answer. The cost is reasonable, far less than grooming school. If you simply cannot afford grooming school or obtain financial aid, home study may be your best first step. In the future you can continue to acquire more home study aids like books and DVDs, and find a way to attend trade shows, seminars and workshops whenever possible. Never stop learning the art of grooming. If you cannot attend an onsite grooming school, even one offering financial assistance, here are some alternatives to consider.
Selecting a Home Study Program
Home study opportunities have grown significantly in the last 15 years. Hands-on training is a part of home study. However, you must locate pets to groom. Most programs provide advice on how to find pets for grooming. Just as you must evaluate schools you attend in person, you must evaluate home study programs.
Today there are three categories:
- Experienced pet groomers who have set up companies specifically focused on pet care training through home study alone.
- Experienced pet groomers who have set up schools and a portion of their curricula is home study and another portion is an internship onsite at a specified location.
- Corporate vocational education companies offering instruction in dozens of trades of which pet grooming is only one.
We advise the first two only. You will find several of them consistently listed at PetGroomer.com for many years (click here for names). You can build working relationships with them, and there are unique benefits derived from groomers teaching groomers.
You maintain communication with the home study instructors through correspondence. Some groomers completing these programs have maintained long-term working relationships with instructors. Some visitors to PetGroomer.com tell us they loved the home study alternative and continued to acquire additional continuing education.
We asked Kathy Sanders, owner of Groomadog Academy (home study) and former owner of an onsite grooming school, to share her experience with home study students. She replied, “I owned two residence schools for 12 years and I can say from experience that my correspondence students are doing just as well if not better. The correspondence student has an advantage over the residence students. They’re already over their fear of grooming without instructors. My students graduate with confidence. People should also realize that home study courses can be very different so they need to choose wisely. Some courses are videos and a book. Some are much more than that. My home study graduates open shops, win competitions and go on to get their masters with NDGAA. We have groomers take our home study course to expand their training experience. However, by all means I recommend that all students, residence or correspondence go on to further their education and experience.”
Pet owners acquire home study courses to learn how to groom their pets. I wonder how many of them quickly discover that grooming pets is more complex than they first thought and become loyal clients of local professional groomers.
What if you could learn to groom by apprenticing with a groomer? Sound great? It can be. Apprenticeships are available but their numbers are not many. Do you know why? The answer is in the past of the grooming industry.
For decades groomers have taken on apprentices. Most employers will agree the results from offering apprenticeships can be the proverbial mixed bag. Imagine you are a business owner. You provide training and a wage to a career seeker and once the trainee felt they had acquired enough knowledge and experience, they quit! Do you want to start over again repeating this same cycle? Unfortunately this scenario has been played out thousands of times. It gets worse.
Sometimes departing apprentices open competitive businesses down the block from their past employer/trainer! Some even take their past employers’ client lists! These are not rare cases. How unfortunate for today’s career seekers that so many of their predecessors have stained the reliability of offering apprenticeship opportunities.
“Burned” employers don’t make the same mistake more than twice. It takes a lot of convincing for them to be sold on offering apprenticeships again.
Don’t rule out an apprenticeship if one interests you. Review the PetGroomer.com Help Wanted Classified Ads updated several times a week. Be honest and faithful to our fellow groomers offering you these opportunities. There are apprenticeships available, but they are few.
If you find one, honor the owner who does a good job of training. Stay employed with them for a reasonable period of time once you are capable of being a standalone groomer. Give them plenty of advance notice when you do depart. You are affecting the future for tomorrow’s career seekers.
One of the key differences between apprenticeships versus fee-based education is time. Educational opportunities immerse you in the challenges of education daily because curricula hours are set. Apprentice groomers can achieve the same education but the length of time is in the control of employers. It’s a trade-off sometimes. On the other side of the coin, apprenticeships cost nothing and usually include wages while learning.
Other Training Programs
PETCO, PetSmart and other chain retailers may offer training. If you cannot afford a school, home study or find an apprenticeship, their career path may be ideal for you. Even if money is not a determining factor in your education choice, working in a corporate environment may be right for you. Unlike the majority of grooming jobs in independents, they offer wages while you learn.
Clearly the corporate stores offer some of the best employee benefits in the pet grooming industry. In fact, you should know one sad fact about benefits and the grooming industry. There are thousands of pet groomer jobs in independents that offer little or no benefits. If you are counting on benefits such as healthcare your employment choices will narrow quickly when working for independents.
We are pleased some of the corporate chains have introduced career training opportunities on such a large scale. They changed the industry. Where there are no schools, and some states have no schools, they probably have some stores with training arrangements.
Build a Library of Professional Grooming Books & DVD’s and Use Streaming Video
Every professional groomer has a library of grooming books and DVD’s for reference. The best news is that some of the grooming industry’s finest groomers are now publishing DVD’s and writing reference books of superior quality. There are so many breeds and mixed breeds to learn and remember you cannot expect to learn all of them in school. You never know when your employer will ask you to do a rare breed. Or, the phone rings and suddenly you have an appointment to groom a breed for the first time. You realize that you don’t even have a grooming reference library. That’s stress, unnecessary stress.
Build a library. Books and DVD’s can be read and watched again and again. It’s a very wise and essential investment in your career. As an employer you can use your library when training employees and providing a method of reinforcement training. You can learn more about books and DVD’s at this site under the Education category, or here.
Scholarships & Grants
Scholarships are very uncommon in the pet grooming industry. In 2006 PetGroomer.com did organize over $40,000 in scholarships with the support of many schools in the U.S. All is not lost. We suggest you check with GroomTeam USA and Barkleigh Productions for current scholarship availability. We do occasionally receive notices of scholarships by schools. If they are actively available you will find them listed on the GroomerTALK™ Message Board.
Grants sponsored by members of the grooming industry are rare. Once again check the resources above. You may find grants available to assist with starting a grooming business. Contact the Small Business Administration and research available grants and their requirements. Most grants require a specific purpose or target candidate. For example, we’ve seen numerous grants for women opening a small business. Also, we’ve seen rehabilitation oriented grants and tuition assistance from battered women groups. Therefore, check locally with state and local government and appropriate groups.