DOWAGIAC — A new state law that went into effect this month requires a local business owner to try a different method to fill an opening in their store.
Patrick Bakeman, owner of Bakeman Barbers in downtown Dowagiac, is looking for potential apprentice candidates as a new law allowing a person to become a licensed barber through an Apprenticeship Program Act came into effect on February 1st.
Bakeman Barbers, 101 S. Front St., has four barber chairs, three barbers, and a non-opening day appointment roster. On Tuesday, Bakeman had to turn away a walk-in client due to busy schedules, so the new law presents an opportunity to fill an empty chair and serve more clients.
“A lot of people are looking for haircuts,” Bakeman said. “There are fewer people providing services, so now you have more people looking for those services. …Right now it’s hard to get people to do work where you need a license. So if that’s an avenue we have to take to qualify someone, that’s what we’re going to do.
According to the most recent data from the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of barbers in the country decreased by more than 5,000 between 2019 and 2020. Due to this trend, state legislators enacted the Michigan House Bill 4207 – enacted November 4. , 2021 – allows a person to become a licensed barber with 1,800 hours of apprenticeship, instead of 1,800 hours of compulsory courses at a barber school.
Although Bakeman Barbers is usually very busy, Bakeman said he would be willing to teach an apprentice if it eventually meant having a full staff – but it doesn’t come without risk.
“It’s something new and exciting, but there’s also this trepidation where you want to make sure that if you’re going into something, you’re going to do it right,” he said. “Obviously you want them to come and figure things out and then you slowly start teaching. You have 1,800 hours, so that’s a long time.
Although Bakeman said the apprentice would only be as good as the professional he is under, he thinks giving people another opportunity to become a barber is a good thing.
“We had a lot of people who were street barbers who wanted jobs,” he said. “But they have to have a license, so this program could be a way for that to happen.”
Bakeman said he looked at the details of hiring an apprentice, which requires a strict hour limit and rules on how many apprentices one can hire. According to Bakeman, once a barber has graduated one apprentice, he can then have two apprentices in total.
“Basically, you’d be barber college,” Bakeman said. “I still feel like [institutional] hairdressing school is the best avenue, but if we were to hire an apprentice, we’d make sure to put in the time and effort to make sure they’re qualified when they’re done.
Bakeman has already seen some interest in the apprenticeship, meeting with two potential candidates this week.
“I met someone [Tuesday], and we’re talking about going to visit barber schools,” he said. “We’re going to visit some places and see if that’s really what they want. … I hope it will work because we know there is a need in our shop. We could fill it right away and keep someone busy.