Vic High Hairdressing Program Began On A Napkin

Vic High Hairdressing Classroom, pre-seismic updating from Vic High 2020 photobook.

Vic High Hairdressing Program Began On A Napkin

By King Lee, VHS 1958

Victoria High School’s 15-year-old hairdressing program began on a napkin, teacher Pam Murray recalls. It was during lunch with then-Principal Stephen Bennett that the rough plans for the course were mapped out. Pam was a substitute teacher in Victoria when she decided to apply for the job teaching a hairdressing program at Vic High.

Before the course began in September of 2007, Stephen reached out to the Vancouver school district for hairdressing course information and was rewarded with a curriculum already being used in Lower Mainland schools. Pam also liaised with the Industry Training Authority of British Columbia. The ITABC’s mandate is to work with trades training programs to better understand, communicate and respond to provincial industry needs. Its Sectory Advisory Groups provide advice to advance and improve the trades training system, including strategies to help increase apprenticeship opportunities for youth, women, Indigenous persons and other equity-seeking groups.

So what began as a part-time teaching position turned out to be a full-time job for Pam, with three Grade 11 and four Grade 12 courses at the 20-station classroom. The course includes theory, salon ecology, trichology (study of hair), design, hair colouring, chemical texture, cutting and styling, hair products and the salon business. The practical side also includes the cutting of men’s and women’s hair, colouring, perming and styling techniques.

The apprenticeship course includes 300 hours of work experience as well as in-house Client Days at Vic High. Most clients learn about the opportunity by word of mouth and they are charged only for products used. It is the out-of-classroom experience where students learn the ancillary skills of the job, such as creativity, hands-on learning, friendly demeanour and an out-going personality. Pam knows of two other similar courses in the Greater Victoria area, Sooke school district’s Belmont Senior Secondary School and Saanich school district’s Individual Learning Centre.

“It gives the kids so much confidence,” Pam said of her students’ experience. “What I love is when it changes somebody’s life.” She still remains in contact with many of her graduates working in the city, and those like 2012 grad Jadah Dale who is now working in London.