The industry is growing and there are many courses on offer STUDENTS ARE FLOCKING to beauty schools to train for careers in the burgeoning industry and there are plenty of specialist courses from which to choose - ranging from makeup, beauty and skin care to aromatherapy, body massage and hair styling. Courses typically run from 100 to 300 hours, with some schools featuring short, basic courses and others offering longer, more comprehensive programmes. Fees range from $5,000 to more than $30,000 a course. 'The beauty industry is growing very fast. Every woman wants to look beautiful and our students find it satisfying to give this kind of service,' said Betty Chak, education and training manager at the Association of International Beauty Therapists. The students range in age from their late teens to their 40s and 50s. Some have stars in their eyes and hope to become the next celebrity makeup artist or hair stylist. For others, it is a mid-life career change. Angel Tong International Beauty School business development controller Danny Fok said: 'We have had people who were in sales or clerical jobs and wanted to switch jobs.' Most students are women, although the presence of men has been growing in recent years, especially in hair styling and makeup courses. Beauty schools are not regulated by the Hong Kong government, but some schools have ties with organisations such as City & Guilds or the International Therapy Examination Council, both of which provide internationally recognised British credentials, as well as the Switzerland-based Comite International d'Esthetique et de Cosmetologie. No academic qualifications are necessary for entry to beauty schools, but it helps if you like to work with your hands. All the skills needed to become a competent beauty therapist or makeup artist can be acquired in class. Those with a spark of creative talent can go far. The Beauty Tech Institute offers courses in makeup, beauty and skin care, hair styling and image, and modelling. Seventy per cent of the students are enrolled in the makeup course. Executive director Janae Chan said: 'In the past, a lot of people wanted to learn about skin care and beauty, but now makeup is the most popular.' Students are taught how to apply daytime and nighttime makeup, bridal and theatrical makeup and body painting. 'The hardest part is learning about foundations,' Ms Chan said. 'You have to apply the base, then the liquid foundation, concealer and pressed powder. It is hard to control the thickness of the foundation, and matching the colour with the colour of the skin is difficult too.' Students practise on each other. Even the men must take their turn as models. Beauty school courses that follow internationally recognised curricula typically divide classes into theory and practical sessions. The CMM Monita Hair & Beauty College has been in business for nearly 40 years. Education centre manager, Sindy Chan, said it offered a 50-50 mix of theory and practical sessions. In theory classes, students grapple with anatomy and physiology, dermatology, skin classification, causes and treatment of acne, and the ageing process of the skin. 'They have to learn the names of muscles and bones,' Ms Chan said. The atmosphere is clinical, with students wearing white uniforms, shoes and stockings. Instruction is also given in product ingredients and biology, bacteria and hygiene, and maintaining customer records. Carol Choy, principal at DR Professional Esthetic Training Institute, said shapely hands with long fingers were an asset for beauty therapists. 'We teach them to be gentle,' she said. Long nails are a definite no because they can potentially scratch a client. Even small-framed women can handle body massage once they are shown how to stand properly. 'It's easy to find a job,' Ms Choy said. Entry-level positions may start at $7,000 a month and rise to more than $20,000 plus commission for senior level staff. Andre Frezouls, chairman of Rever La Corp, which operates hair salons, said: 'We always look upon [these diplomas] with a favourable attitude. At least, we know they have the basic knowledge.' Prospective stylists with a diploma are given a trade test to assess their capabilities. 'If it's positive, we take them on as a junior hairdresser. If they are not good enough, they start with technical work and move on gradually,' Mr Frezouls said. Some hairdressing and beauty salons have their own in-house training programmes, which schools say offer practical training but may lack the crucial theory component.