Trade schools offer quicker route to gainful employment

Monday, August 18, 2014
Grace Fox, a student in the medical assistant program at Metro Business College, draws blood from a fellow student’s arm during an exam Thursday. (GLENN LANDBERG)

From business to medical and salon training, trade schools in Cape Girardeau attract students who want to earn a degree quickly, so they can enter the workforce and start creating better lives for themselves and their families.

That's the case with Becky Collier, Torrie Stepp, Tammy Arnzen and Katie Alsup. Collier and Stepp are pursuing their medical specialist degrees at Metro Business College, while Arnzen and Alsup are studying cosmetology at Renaissance Beauty Academy.

Metro Business College

"The reason I chose to come here was because I wouldn't have to take any extra classes. I'm taking classes that will directly go toward what I want to do, and I'm a single mom, so I can be in and out and then working ... working for my son, providing for him," said Collier, of Dexter, Missouri.

Stepp, who lives in Marble Hill, Missouri, and is the mother of two young children, said she attended a different nursing school previously, but it was difficult to coordinate with her schedule. Plus, it meant a lot of work.

Sarah Tolbert, a student in the medical specialist program at Metro Business College, draws blood from a fellow student’s arm during an exam Thursday. (GLENN LANDBERG)

"I've always heard from other friends and other family members that they've had a really good experience here, and I feel like the coursework is what we need at that time, but it's not so overwhelming that I feel like I can't keep going," Stepp said. "That's really why I like it. There's not as much homework. It's not as much of a load, but it's still things you're going to use every single day in your job [or] field."

And finding a better-paying job at the end of the educational tunnel is a good thing indeed.

"Basically, there's not a whole lot of jobs out there, especially with two children -- very small children," she continued. "It's not very easy to work at McDonald's. ... I did that for two years. It just doesn't pull in the income that I would have with a degree in the medical field."

Metro Business College director Jan Reimann said the college has 100 to 150 students taking medical, massage, business, computer, billing/coding and accounting courses -- to name a few. Many of the students are nontraditional or displaced workers. Programs last from nine to 18 months -- the 18-month program resulting in an associate of applied science degree.

Reimann noted that students are cross-trained to handle different aspects of the workplace and the career service department helps them with job placement.

Shannon Buford, business instructor at Metro Business College, helps Jennifer DeBerry with an exercise in Excel during a computers II class Thursday. (GLENN LANDBERG)

Metro, based in St. Louis, was established here in 1981. Campuses also are in Rolla, Jefferson City and Arnold, Missouri. Admissions director Denise Acey visits high schools, offers presentations in business classes and talks to prospective students. She also has a good working relationship with high school counselors, Reimann said.

Acey said the small enrollment means there's a lot of interaction among the 16 faculty and staff members.

"It's almost like a family atmosphere," Acey said.

Classes start in March, June, September and December. Fall classes start Sept. 8, Acey said.

Renaissance Beauty Academy

Grace Fox, a student in the medical assistant program at Metro Business College, draws blood from a fellow student’s arm during an exam Thursday. (GLENN LANDBERG)

Officially opened in March by co-owners Valerie Kolwyck and Heather Thompson, Renaissance Beauty Academy has 17 students taking cosmetology courses.

Kolwyck and Thompson have more than 20 years of beauty industry and education experience between them.

"We both just have [a] passion for this industry and we want to give our community another option," Kolwyck said.

Students, who come from throughout the area, can complete the program in 10 months.

"It's very fast paced. You have to learn how to build your business and how to satisfy your guest; you have to go through chemistry; they do have to learn different [subjects] like anatomy and physiology ... things that most people wouldn't typically think about," in relation to cosmetology, Kolwyck said.

The school offers services that would be available in a full-service salon at a discounted price. Students have to have about five weeks of training completed before they can work on a client.

"Our services do take longer, especially the girls in the beginning, because they're just learning," Kolwyck said. " ... They're not going to be as quick. Highlighting may take an hour and a half in a salon, whereas it's probably going to take them three hours [at Renaissance], so they do take longer. You can probably expect an hour for a haircut vs. 30 minutes for a haircut [at a salon]. They're more worried about getting it right than their speed."

Arnzen of Leopold, Missouri, and Alsup of Dexter both said doing hair, makeup and nails was something they'd always wanted to pursue.

Arnzen worked as a salon receptionist and raised three children before going back to school, and Alsup is a single mother who transferred to Renaissance from another beauty school.

"I've done makeup off and on my whole life ... for friends and family whenever they were having weddings or prom or anything like that," Arnzen said. "It's something I've always wanted to do. This has been a dream of mine."

Alsup describes it as "getting paid to be a girl."

"We're paying tuition, but we get to play all day and we have great instructors. We really do. They are wonderful. Both of the ladies that run the school, they're very professional [and] respectful," she said.

The school uses the Summit Salon Business Center to teach students the business aspect of hair, nails and skin. Kolwyck said salons using the system also help new stylists meet their goals.

"We stay very active with the salons in the community and ... we let the students ... find where they want to go. We don't try to persuade them in any way, but if there was a salon they wanted to go to, I would pick the phone up and call and find out if they were hiring," Kolwyck said.


Pertinent address:

1732 N. Kingshighway, Cape Girardeau, Mo.

268 S. Mount Auburn Road, Cape Girardeau, Mo.

Some other career and trade schools

* Career and Technology Center, 1080 S. Silver Springs Road

* Trendsetters Cosmetology Inc., 835 S. Kingshighway

* Southeast College of Nursing and Health Sciences, 2001 William St.

* eClips School of Cosmetology and Barbering, 52 S. Plaza Way

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