School of Style

June 22, 2021
Category: Blog Posts

School of Style

When you think of schools with downtown campuses, you’re probably going to first think of the big three — MacEwan University, the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Extension, or NorQuest College.

But there are also many other institutions that offer provincially recognized certifications, from esthetics to massage therapy to programs for international students. In fact, downtown is simply a learning hub.

Moe Sweiss is the executive director of the Canada School of Barbering, where students can earn a provincial certification in hair cutting after successfully completing a 14-week course. The school first opened its doors in 2009. He said the reason for being in downtown Edmonton is simple: Logistics.

“I wanted to be central for students from all over Edmonton to be able to come via bus or LRT and for our students from out of town to find Airbnb accommodation more easily,” Sweiss said.

The school, located on 106th Street just south of Jasper Avenue, is a sister organization to the 15 Mr. Barber locations in Edmonton and area, including a downtown spot at 105th Street and Jasper Avenue and a newly opened shop in Oliver Square.

After seven years of lobbying efforts spearheaded by Sweiss, Alberta Innovation and Advanced Education recognizes barbering as its own trade, separate from hairstyling. So, students who graduate from the Canada School of Barbering will now be fully certified — and they’ll learn the skills they need to cut hair and safely offer their clients some awfully close shaves.

“We knocked on a lot of doors, talked to a lot of barbers and hairstylists,” said Sweiss.

Up until recent months, if a student went to barbering school, that person could not become a fully accredited tradesperson. If you wanted to be a certified haircutter, you had to pass the exam and become a full-blown hairstylist. So, after learning to cut hair, to become accredited, a student had to learn about perms and colours and sets, even if all that person wanted to do was become a barber.

The final phase of the course sees students working on real, live people. The Canada School of Barbering works with charities such as the Mustard Seed and the Bissell Centre to offer hair care for their clients. As well, by going to the school’s website and clicking the "services" tab, visitors can book free beard trims, shaves and haircuts.
Classes are limited to 12 students per session. Tuition for the 14-week course is $7,995, and includes a barber’s tool bag. But COVID-19 has been tough on the businesses.

“Year after year, the barber shops had seen significant growth, and COVID changed that,” Sweiss said. “When the salons and barber shops are closed because of COVID, there isn’t as much interest in becoming a barber.

“Hopefully, we’re through all of that."

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