New cosmetology externship model connects students to industry


When Jill Mion, owner of Temptd Salon and Spa in Monona and a senior part-time instructor at the college, heard about the cosmetology program’s shift to an externship model, she was thrilled.

“This is exactly what students and the future of cosmetology needs,” she says. “By being in a salon, students will be closer to trends, they’ll see a diverse clientele, and they’ll be alongside industry professionals showing them the way. When students are in that environment, they are only going to grow.”

For the past six years, students in the Cosmetology technical diploma program have gained their industry training and honed their skills at the college’s Trustyle Salon, an open-to-the-public salon located in the Truax campus.

Starting in the spring of 2024, the externship model will pair students with local partnering salons to fulfill most of these training hours. Trustyle will continue to stay open with reduced hours.

With the support of salons such as Temptd Salon and Spa as well as others throughout the area, the model bridges the gap between school and salon. This partnership also helps students gain industry knowledge and a build robust clientele sooner.

Cosmetology student in Trustyle Salon
Cosmetology students at Trustyle Salon
Cosmetology student practicing foiling
Cosmetology student practices her foiling technique during lab time.

From School to Salon

As part of the three-semester program, students will spend the first sixteen weeks immersed in theory and hands-on lab work where they are responsible for bringing in participants (such as college staff, friends, and family) to perform key services. Then, they will transition to a phased externship model at the end of their second semester.

“We’re excited for the students to begin the new model in the fall 2023 semester,” says Vicky McNally, the program director for cosmetology. “While we enjoy the convenience and community support that Trustyle offers, placing students in salons will be productive for establishing their careers.” She added, “And we hope it will be a helpful boost to local businesses too.”

McNally says the phased externship approach eases students into a salon setting while giving them the academic and mentoring support they need. It also matches them to the environment, pace, and focus areas they are most interested in.

“Students will have an orientation period where they’ll work with Trustyle salon clients, interview with partnering salons, establish an online portfolio and create business cards. This will prepare for them for their extern role,” she says. “Then, they’ll transition to a hybrid model; spending time on campus for theory and lab work which creates a bridge to their externship role in salons. Throughout this time, Madison College Trustyle Salon will be open (one day a week) for students to continue serving longtime customers and the community.”

A key advantage, says McNally, is how quickly students will be immersed in the industry. “They’ll be working alongside and learning from seasoned licensed professionals and practicing trends in real-time. Students can begin building a stable and vibrant clientele for themselves that will translate to success after graduation.”

Planning for the Future

The new externship model is the result of multiple planning sessions and has been focused on meeting the incredible demand for the program while preserving the high quality of instruction it is known for, says Dr. Ramon Ortiz, dean of the college’s School of Business and Applied Arts. It was also a necessary change to ensure financial stability of the program.

The college has always strategically and intentionally operated Trustyle salon at a deficit, leveraging the advantages of having an on-site location. However, over the years, the salon’s customer base and revenue has continued to decline, and with the COVID-19 pandemic’s residual effects on the financial outlook, there was a need for innovation.

“We turned the challenge into an opportunity to transform the program,” Ortiz says. “We came together and analyzed the curriculum and layout and looked for ways to be more congruent with industry while keeping our focus on student success.”

As a result, the college streamlined the technical diploma’s current curriculum, reducing total credits from 49 to 40, and saving students more than $1,500 in tuition costs.

Jill Mion working in her Temptd Salon
Jill Mion, left, owner of Temptd Salon and Spa, working with her stylists.

Pipeline to Employment

This is a win-win for students and salons, says Mion, who sees this new model as an opportunity for her salon to build relationships with cosmetology students they’d hope to hire anyway.

“This helps us grow our team,” she says. “And the students will find their family and home too. If we have a good fit, my goal is to hire them and give them a job.”

The program will intentionally place students in salons that are a good fit and where students can see themselves working, something Mion sees benefit in.

“Some students are going to love nails, some are going to love make-up, some are going to love hair color, and I think if we put them into salons that fit their passion, they are going to thrive.”

Patti White, operations manager for Cost Cutters of Madison, Inc., who oversees 25 salons throughout the regional area, is also looking forward to welcoming externship students.

“There’s a huge benefit in having the students introduced to the salon environment sooner,” she says. “They’ll see a wide range of clients; men, women, and children, all with different service needs. And we’ll be partnering them with experienced professionals who will know how to strengthen their skills and help them grow professionally. It’s not just the cosmetology skills; there’s learning customer service, the retail aspect, the operations, and all of it is critical.”

White says that when students are done with school, not only will they feel more comfortable, but they’ll also likely have a job waiting for them. It gives them a place and “work-family” they’ve gotten to know, and built-up clientele.

And, when asked if Cost Cutters plans to hire the students placed in their salons through the externship model, White’s answer was an enthusiastic “absolutely.”

Open for Business

Trustyle customers can continue to book services directly through the salon during the summer and fall 2023 semesters. Once the new externship model is in full swing, public hours will be reduced and communicated to the public.

For those looking to support students at their externship salon, the Cosmetology program will keep the salon's webpage up-to-date on where our students will be placed and how you can contact those salons to book an appointment.

Trustyle Salon