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BC’s very first Red Seal Endorsed Mobile Hairstylist!

Published: 12/Jan/2016     

imageHi everyone, it has been a hectic year for me, but I finally found time to share some SUPER news! I have received my Red Seal Endorsement – a guarantee that I have the skills to qualify for the highest stardard of excellence in my trade. But there is quite a backstory to this…

It all started off in 2002 or thereabouts, when for some ridiculous reason the licensing requirements for BC hairdressers were abolished. This means NO training was required for anyone to work in a salon. When I left Ontario I had an apprentice license, which was the mandatory minimum for me to be able to use a pair of shears in a salon. As I understood it, both myself and my salon owner would be penalized if I worked without this license. When I came to Vancouver I was shocked to find that a well-known Yaletown salon did not ask for any credentials or portfolio for me to immediately start work as a full-fledged hairstylist! To my knowledge they did not call my references either.

So! I wrote my BC license and hoped to receive my Red Seal as well, like you can in Ontario. Any hairstylist can challenge the exam and receive a license for BC; it’s just not required or encouraged in most hair schools. Imagine my disappointment when I found that the Red Seal exam wasn’t even available in BC, and that I would have to travel to another province to write it. I had resolved to take some time in 2016 when I had saved up enough money, and travel to write my exam in Alberta.

imageBy an amazing stroke of luck I received an invitation in November 2015 to assist with the pilot exams for the Red Seal Hairstyling program in BC. I was literally shaking when I hung up the phone – it was so exciting and scary at the same time!!! I had less than a month to study for the 8 hour practical exam, during which a team of examiners would scrutinize my every move and decide if I was worthy to earn a Red Seal. I was asked not to tell anyone until the program launch in January 2016, so I couldn’t just go find another hair buddy to study with. To be honest, I have been out of hair school for so long that I have acquired some bad habits along the way; as with all professions there is the ‘textbook’ way that we learn in school and the ‘real life’ way that is either more efficient or better overall. I had a short time to unlearn my habits and get prepped for the exam.

I came up with a solid plan for my exam, as we would only be permitted one mannequin each for the whole thing, and we needed to be able to do multiple colours and haircuts over the course of the day. I am certain this is to test our planning skill as well as just our ability to do hair.

…And then the worst thing possible happened: the very first cut I did at the start of the exam was an inch too short. Doesn’t sound like much, but when you have to remove a minimum of one inch for each separate haircut in the exam, it throws everything off. I had less than the required amount of hair left on my mannequin and I was certain I would fail! My perm rods that I had chosen for the wrap would not work, as the hair would go around them less than 2.5 times (the large peach coloured rods seemed the best choice for speed). I literally lost it for about 10-15 minutes. I put down my shears and comb, and just leaned on the table. I have never been so convinced I had failed something, and considered walking out.

After pulling myself together, I told myself it was worth sticking around so I would learn ways I could do better when I rewrote the exam. With shaking hands, I continued the haircut, but was now so behind that I realized I had to go quickly or I would fail that section for sure. I somehow managed to finish the cut in time, but the perm wrap gave me a LOT of trouble.

The Dancer haircut - not my work, we were not allowed phones in the exam.

The Dancer haircut – not my work, as we were not allowed phones in the exam.

I decided that I would do a Schwarzkopf fashion cut for the next haircut. This would permit me to use a freehand technique to create a great-looking cut and leave a lot of the hair still on the head. While everyone else did graduated bobs (the easiest and best choice), I didn’t have enough hair to do one. So, off I went with The Dancer cut from the 2007 Diverse collection…and it turned out BEAUTIFULLY. The rest of the exam went pretty well after that. I am 100% certain that I’d have failed if I had not done that particular cut.

I finished the exam right at the last second. I was sure I hadn’t passed, but gave it a solid go anyway.  Less than a month later, I got a voicemail saying I had passed!!! I am sure that I was harder on myself than I needed to be, but it’s super nerve wracking to have a group of 5 people standing around and watching one’s every move, especially if you know you screwed up badly.

It has occurred to me that the reason I passed was because I recovered so well from a screw-up. It’s a skill you only learn through years of experience!

Now kids, the moral of the story is that you can now challenge the Red Seal exam if you are a licensed British Columbia hairstylist! This milestone is such a big deal. I am looking forward to seeing higher quality work in our salons, as well as meeting more people who are dedicated to excellence in this fabulous trade. I am so grateful to the hairdressers who helped to get this program off the ground. Thank you for your dedication!!!

You may arrive at this blog if you are doing research into becoming a hairstylist and going to hair school. If yes, my best advice is to GO TO VCC for your apprenticeship, as the license and Red Seal exams are built into the program. In other professions such as cooking, the Red Seal is offered but not mandatory. My partner is a Red Seal Chef and he prefers VCC grads to any of the fancy local schools simply because college prepares you for real life and follows the curriculum laid out by ITA. It’s the same deal in my industry.

A quick search proved that only a few colleges are accredited licensing programs with ITA, the government regulatory entity for all skilled tradespeople. Did you know that if you do your apprenticeship and licensing through Vancouver Community College that you are eligible for government incentive grants that bring your tuition down to only a couple thousand dollars TOTAL? The pricier and more glamorous hair schools in town are not necessarily going to be the best for your career and give you the confidence that a license provides. Do your research before you waste your money! Nobody really cares where you went to school or what your marks were…seriously. All that matters is your SKILL, which is best nurtured by the people who set the official standards for your trade.

Any questions? Comments? Did I get any info wrong about schools? Please comment below 🙂

8 responses to “BC’s very first Red Seal Endorsed Mobile Hairstylist!”

  1. sandra stefani says:

    Hi, I am a currently a 27 year Ontario licensed stylist living in Kelowna for the last 2 years. Even though a BC license is not required, I was looking into my options to obtain one. The BC license I would have to go to Langley and find live models. The Red Seal is more doable that they have a place in Kelowna is do your testing. Only problem. I have been self employed for the last 15 years and I would have to prove that I have the required hours to challenge. I have nothing written to say so. I am feeling frustrated and not sure how so go about this or t even try. I am also concerned because being in the business as long as I have, you learn new tricks and short cuts and forget or no longer use some of the things I have learned in school. So I am feeling a bit of terror, that I could fail. Any suggestions would be appreciated. Thanks

    • victoria says:

      Hi Sandra, that sounds really frustrating, I had no idea that it’s so difficult for experienced stylists to challenge. I wonder if they would take tax records for the past few years as proof? Also if you have an Ontario license they may allow that as well – the date of issue is listed on there, I think? The Red Seal exam is based from the Milady textbook, so it would definitely help for you to pick up the newest edition. I can’t believe they need live models for the exam, that’s ridiculous! It makes more sense to use a mannequin, as I doubt it would be easy to find a model who is willing to sit for that long and that many changes. So then, if you were to have multiple models, that would take a lot of wrangling for everyone (like, what if someone no-shows?) and waste quite a bit of time. Something doesn’t add up there… Have you called ITA to discuss it with them directly? You might also be able to take the exam at VCC when the students do theirs, so you could call them and check. I wish I could be of more help. Please keep us updated on how the process goes for you, I would love to know all the details!

      • sandra stefani says:

        Thank you so much for replying. For the BC licensing in Langley i would have a mix of model and mannequin. Sorry I went back to reread the requirements, but just the same Ugh! I did call the ITA and that is what i was told. I would have to contact past employers and prove my hours, just to challenge and it would cost me $120 to do so. The BC challenge didn’t cost me anything. I told the ITA that it was already challenged and was denied, but I guess they would still have to go through their process. Past tax returns could be an option. Doesn’t hurt to ask. I will check into the VCC and see if they can help me. Does that stand for Vancouver community college? Thanks. Will keep you posted.


    • laura says:

      Hi Sandra, I am writing my red seal theory test tomorrow, and am hoping I can get my results in time to do the practical at the end of the month. I also was self employed for 10 years. I challenged and am moving forward. My suggestion to you is this, download and print the necessary documents, fill them out completely. Including as much information as you can. I gave three references. One was a long term client, one was a sales rep from ag, and a person directly responsible for contractual services I preformed to residents in an assisted living facility. They will check to verify and if your hours make sense there is no reason that you can’t challenge it. Make sure to include a check or credit card number to run the 120$ for the written exam fee.

  2. Lovina says:

    Great read! I am confused as to why you did not need to write the red seal exam. I am from Ontario and also have my apprenticeship certificate. Like you I have been waiting for the government to regulate our trade. I applied to challenge the exam. However, I had to write the exam before I am able to do the practical.
    I just wrote and an waiting for my results.
    Also, there are some high schools that also work with ita to have stylists that will attain a red seal. It’s a great way for high school students to get into the industry. I currently teach at one of them.
    Cheers to you getting your ticket!
    I can’t wait to hang mine in my wall.
    Fingers crossed I met the percentage and I’ll go in to do the practical assessment.

    • victoria says:

      Hi Lovina, thank you for your comment! I wrote the challenge portion of the exam years ago when I moved to BC (just the basic license), and could not do the practical as it was not offered in BC at that time 🙂 Ontario seemed much more regulated to me, but maybe it’s just that the Red Seal wasn’t important there as the basic license.

      I wish I had done the high school thing, and had known about it as a teen via a classmate of mine who started her apprenticeship at 17. I’ve wanted to to hair since I was young, but my parents wouldn’t allow me…I had to go to university and get a ‘real’ job! Didn’t get into hair until I graduated at 23. It was worth the wait!

      I bet you probably beat the percentage for the written – that part’s easy to doubt ourselves on, because it’s counterintuitive to have to think about our skills…we just do them! If you’re challenging the exam you probably have already been using all the skills for a while. Best of luck to you with your practical. I hope it goes well for you!

      • Lovina says:

        Thank you for the response. I agree with you about Ontario but it seems that BC is getting on track. The good news is the red seal is interprovincial where the Ontaro licence is not(from my understanding).
        Thank you for your kind words as well about the exam. It is nerve racking waiting for my results!! All the best 😊

  3. Kassidy says:

    It is very nice to read of your shared thoughts…I it sounds like you are a very great hairstylist. I wish i would come to see you for my hair style one day.
    I love all your words!
    Kassidy Luu

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