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The Journal Gazette

  • Associated Press Kelly Hawe, with Kohler Waters Spa of Kohler, Wis., applies a massage at the annual International Spa Association event Tuesday in New York. The spa beauty industry says it's facing a worker shortage.

Friday, August 10, 2018 1:00 am

Spas wanting to shake off stigma

Jobs going unfilled as industry grows to $17.5 billion

BETH J. HARPAZ | Associated Press

 NEW YORK – The spa and beauty industry is growing so fast that 30,000 jobs are going unfilled. A “Get Your Dream Job” campaign is aiming to change that.

Lynnelle Lynch is president of Beauty Changes Lives, a foundation committed to “elevating the perception of careers in beauty and wellness and make it a first choice,” she said. The foundation provides scholarships from $1,000 to $15,000, and spas and salons across the country are helping to get out the message.

The campaign was a focus of the annual International Spa Association show this week in New York.

Spas are now a $17.5 billion industry in the United States, up 4 percent in a year, according to iSPA statistics, with 187 million visits to spas in nearly 22,000 locations, and more than 370,000 employees, about half of them full time.

“We're opening our fifth Kohler Water Spa in Chicago next year as a result of how hot the industry is right now,” said Garrett Mersberger, director of wellness and Kohler Water Spas at Kohler, a Wisconsin company.

Mersberger is also chairman of the iSPA board, and noted that the industry's record-breaking boom includes “spa visits at an all-time high,” along with record average revenue of nearly $94 per customer visit.

Lynch emphasized that the industry welcomes workers in every stage of life, from students just out of high school to older workers looking for new opportunities, to those returning to the workforce after raising kids – along with military spouses looking for skills they can take with them if they move.

But Lynch feels the industry does not always get the respect it deserves. She even encourages parents to get kids considering careers in the industry if college isn't the right fit.

“If they're creative, if they love wellness, if they love beauty, why not allow them to take an alternative path?” she said. “The skills are portable. And it's short term – five months to a year – to get this training.”

Jobs include aestheticians who provide facial skin care and body treatments, and cosmetologists who do hair styling, makeup and nails.

Lynch pointed out that celebrities often owe their looks to “people behind the scenes,” and that beauty school is a good steppingstone for entrepreneurial-minded professionals to launch products or open salons.