Higher Education

If you find good help is hard to come by, you can look forward to relief: It's certain to become less of a challenge as more spa professionals begin to take advantage of the advanced educational opportunities available and progress is made in establishing a set of skill standards for the industry. Until recently, spa management programs designed for owners, directors, and other managerial positions have been in short supply.

Today, that is slowly changing as industry professionals recognize the importance of broad-based education that embraces more business-oriented classes and programs. Created to serve the educational needs of the industry, the International Spa Association Education Foundation (ISPAEF) was established as a non-profit foundation in 1998 as a result of a gift of $30,000 from the Agnus Noster Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to the promotion of higher education for the millennium. A separate entity from ISPA, the Foundation is interested in funding education and increasing the quality of spa service, training, and certification.

Above and below: Respected educator Anne Bramham teaches students at The Bramham Institute in West Palm Beach, FL.
Above and below: Respected educator Anne Bramham teaches students at The Bramham Institute in West Palm Beach, FL.

Management Programs

The Bramham Institute offers certification for both spa therapies and spa management. The programs are certified by the American Spa Therapy Education & Certification Council (ASTECC), a non-profit organization dedicated to the academic needs of spa professionals. Offered as a four-day workshop, the Spa Management Certification program is a 32-hour course designed specifically for those interested in a spa management career. The course looks at the many responsibilities of a spa director including operations, budget, marketing, and retailing. The program also provides tools for establishing a spa's image and advice on using the Internet and various spa business software operations.

The Bramham Institute's Spa Therapy Certification program features a 264-hour post-graduate spa therapy curriculum with 11 components that offers therapists knowledge of basic spa therapies, such as Ayurveda, hydrotherapy, thalassotherapy, aromatherapy, and more. From protocols to treatment routines, the course provides students with the knowledge necessary to create customized spa programs. According to Anne Bramham, owner of The Bramham Institute & Spa and a founding member of ASTECC, establishing standards re-mains a hard sell. "Education is not high on everyone's list," says Bramham, referring to spas that are reluctant to invest financially yet want to hire educated people. "Not until the competition demands it." In response, Bramham opened her own spa so that she could set standards in her own establishment. She also notes the challenge of determining what qualifies as a minimum or maximum standard. For more information on The Institute, call (800) 575-0518.

Management seminars from Preston Wynne Success Systems provide owners, directors, and managers with solutions to difficult management issues. All seminars include a private consultation for each company participating. The Spa Director's Management Intensive includes four days of intense classes that cover everything from understanding financial statements to scheduling for maximum productivity and quality. Taught by spa management experts at Preston Wynne, the classes focus on financial management, marketing, creating successful programs, leadership, quality management, and achieving retail success. For more information, call (866) 792-8786.

The International Chain Salon Association (ICSA) and The 3MD Group recently launched the International Chain Salon & Spa University (ICSU) to provide quality business and leadership education for multi-unit salon and spa executives. Exposing participants to the strategies of Fortune 500 companies, it's an advanced business education designed specifically for chain salons and spas. The ICSU workshops were designed to help companies and their executives learn how to grow sales and profits while reducing costs and motivating their teams. Although they are intended for owners and senior management, they are open to any professionals with a desire to learn. The seminars will teach the skills, strategies, and techniques used by major Fortune 500 companies. "Whether you have two or 2000 locations, managing a multi-unit operation is more complex than running a single salon or spa and requires a different skill set to achieve success," says Maggie McCain Davis, founder and chief operating officer of The 3MD Group. "We've designed the ICSU's curriculum to teach those skills while providing experiential learning in a service-savvy environment." The first series of workshops are Making Training Stick, Brand Marketing, Getting Serious About Retail, Expansion Planning & Strategy, Beyond Customer Service, and Expanding Your Ethnic Business. Workshops, which began in September, will be scheduled throughout the country and are open to ICSA members and non-member chain executives. For more information, call (866) 444-4272.

Collegiate Courses

For those preferring a more traditional education, there are a limited but growing number of private or state universities offering degrees with specialties in spa management. An Ivy League education is available at Cornell University's Hotel School of Hospitality and Management. The School offers a master's program for graduate students seeking an MBA in hospitality, a bachelor's degree for undergraduates, and a summer school program featuring refresher courses. The program includes three courses that pertain specifically to the spa industry: Contemporary Healthy Foods, Implementing Strategies for Tying Wellness Practices to Company Profit, and Spa and Spa Hotel and Resort Development and Management. Taught by professor Mary Tabacchi, the courses give students the opportunity to earn nine credits in their chosen field on top of general business management classes. Designed for students with both work and management experience, the Spa and Spa Hotel and Resort Development and Management course takes an in-depth look at day spas, resort spas, and destination spas. It also covers the market research necessary to establish a new spa as well as the peculiarities of marketing a spa.

According to Tabacchi, the spa option is a real selling point for the school, particularly with graduate students. The number of people interested in the option has also increased as the number of corporate spas has grown-most of the school's students are corporate-oriented or entrepreneurial. "Last year, we had 80 people for 30 slots," says Tabacchi. "We finally had to move to a larger room to accommodate more people. You can't tell senior students to come back next year. Out of eighty, twenty are real devotees. If they have to wait five years to get the position they want, they'll wait. They're that committed. Twenty or thirty really want [a position in the spa industry,] but if something else opens up they may go for it. The rest are just exploring."

The program attracts spa directors, those wanting to go beyond the position of spa director, finance people interested in going into the spa industry, and entrepreneurs, including spa directors wanting to open their own spas. To be accepted into the program, students must have some management experience. Graduate students generally have five years while undergraduates obviously have less. Their experience could be managing a retail store or spa locker room. Upon completion of the program, students may be able to hasten the process of climbing the corporate ladder. Tabacchi points to past students who have been offered such positions as associate spa director in a major spa corporation or reporting to a vice president of spa concept at a large hotel chain. "It may speed up the process to the top, but it doesn't eliminate it," says Tabacchi, who notes that by the time students graduate, they should have three meaningful summers of work experience under their belt. Internships provide an essential learning experience. "I try to connect students with people in the industry so that they're marketable when they graduate," says Tabacchi, who shies away from placing students with companies that are just going to keep them busy. "I want students to contribute to the goals of the company. They need to be involved in all aspects of the spa." According to Tabacchi, students that graduate from the program take away great analytical skills. "They have the ability to analyze the business to see what is wrong or right and to build on those strengths," says Tabacchi.

President of ISPAEF, Tabacchi is in the preliminary stages of developing a summer program for spa directors. While still on the drawing board, she envisions it as a two-week summer course with one week focusing on business skills and the other on the components of spa. "The industry is relatively new and has been unwilling or unable to pay for high-level managerial people," says Tabacchi, who notes that times are changing. "[The spa industry is beginning to] recognize the value of education. The future will require more business skills." For more information on the Cornell program, call (607) 255-9393.

The University of Minnesota Crookston offers a Bachelor of Science degree in Hotel, Restaurant, and Institutional Management for those interested in pursuing a career in the hospitality industry. What makes the program unique is an emphasis in Resort and Spa Management. The program's core curriculum includes studies in marketing, communications, customer service, sanitation, hospitality law, economics, and principles of business management. For those students choosing the Resort and Spa Management option, a variety of classes are available that pertain to healthcare, wellness, nutrition, and more. According to program director Ken Myers, the spa option was first introduced three years ago when a number of resorts in Minnesota began looking at spas as an essential amenity.

Internships prove to be invaluable in helping students determine what it is exactly they'd like to do upon graduation. Required to participate in two internships for a total of six credits, students get their feet wet in the first one, where they generally spend 90 percent of their time in one area. The second internship usually involves more hands-on experience with a student spending 25 percent of his or her time in multiple departments. "We structure the internship so that students have more of an opportunity to grow and see what's going on," says Myers. As for the future, Myers sees technology as playing a prominent role in education as demand for web-based courses and degrees at a distance grow from "individuals that are place-bound because of a job, marriage, and family." The University of Minnesota currently offers a certificate in Hotel, Restaurant, and Institutional Management over the web. It includes 23 credits and eight courses. For more information, call (800) UMC-MINN.

Ayurvedic Studies

A renewed interest in all things natural and holistic has given rise to the popularity of Ayurveda. As an increasing number of spas look to add Ayurvedic treatments to their menus, the need for experienced Ayurvedic practitioners has become more essential than ever. According to doctor of naturopathic medicine Pratima Raichur, a pioneer of Ayurvedic esthetics and owner of the Pratima Ayurvedic Skin Care Clinic, the study and practice of Ayurveda goes beyond what current treatments suggest. Educating estheticians in the eighties about various Ayurvedic treatments like Shirodhara, Raichur found it difficult to delve deeper when most people were unfamiliar with even the concept of Ayurveda. That has all changed, however, as Ayurveda becomes increasingly more mainstream. Hoping to provide a more comprehensive education on the subject and take the treatments a step further, Raichur developed the Certified Ayurvedic Practitioner Training Course (CAP). The course began in September and ends in August of next year with students meeting for one weekend each month. Some of the classes offered include Ayurvedic Philosophy & Anatomy; Ayurvedic Psychology; and Disease, Diagnosis & Management. Attracting licensed health care practitioners, estheticians, massage and physical therapists, yoga instructors, and more, the program features an experienced faculty of physicians and professors from Indian Ayurvedic Universities. An optional three-month internship is also available in New York, Seattle, and India to those interested in gaining more practical application experience. For those not interested in certification, individual classes can be taken based on interest. Raichur, who is also the founder of Bindi, an Ayurvedic skincare line, also plans to offer two additional classes apart from the program. Ideal for estheticians, they include the Ayurvedic Way of Treating Skin Problems and Ayurvedic Anti-Aging Therapies & Products. For more information, call (212) 581-8136.

Offering certification as a Clinical Ayurvedic Specialist (C.A.S.), the California College of Ayurveda is a state-approved college providing a comprehensive curriculum on the fundamental principles and philosophy of Ayurveda. It is also the only U.S. school to be selected by the renowned Gujarat Ayurveda University, the largest Ayurvedic University in India, as a partner in developing International Ayurvedic standards of education. With its main campus in Grass Valley and two additional satellite locations in the San Francisco Bay area and Southern California, the College offers both a full-time and extended weekend program. The full time program can be completed in approximately 16 months and features classes three days a week. It's followed by a six-month, clinic-based internship program. The extended weekend program takes two years to complete with classes scheduled for one three-day weekend each month for an 18-month period. It concludes with a six-month community-based internship program. Both programs include 500 hours of Ayurvedic education, which consists of study pulse diagnosis, aromatherapy, color therapy, five-element theory, and more. For more information, call (530) 274-9100.

Providing an extensive educational package to spas implementing their systems and therapies, Ayoma offers both theoretical and practical Ayurvedic education. According to Ayoma founder Reenita Malhotra, Ayurvedic physician, 95 percent of the training is performed on-site, which helps eliminate operational difficulties. There is no educational fee, although participating spas are responsible for the trainer's basic expenses. Ayoma also offers Ayurvedic training for nutritionists and dieticians, as well as Ayurvedic yoga for yoga instructors. Both the yoga and nutritionist five-day training programs include an educational fee. A consultation fee is charged for Ayoma's food and beverage program, which is designed to provide training for kitchen staff on incorporating Ayurvedic cuisine into their menus. The length of the program, usually anything from a one-day to week-long workshop, is dependent on the size of the facility. Affiliated with ASTECC, the training is also available to individuals through the Bramham Institute. For more information, call (415) 243-0700.

Skincare Schools

Founded in 1979, The Catherine Hinds Institute claims to be the first accredited esthetics school in the country. Today the school is accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges of Technology. Offering four specialized courses, the Institute features a 300-Hour Basic Program, a 600-Hour Advanced Program, a 900-Hour Spa Therapy Program, and a 1200-Hour Medical Esthetics Program. While the 300-hour program prepares students for the Massachusetts State Board of Cosmetology Examination in Esthetics, CEO and president An G. Hinds advocates that 600 hours be made the national minimum requirement for licensure. Many of her students seem to support the idea of additional education; in 2001, 34 percent of the Institute's students graduated from the 300-hour program, 37 percent graduated from the 600-hour program, 13 percent completed the 900-hour program, and 16 percent completed the 1200-hour program. With 66 percent going beyond the 300 hours required by the state of Massachusetts, it seems as though many of her students are taking note that there's more to learn in the rapidly growing industry. According to Hinds, consumers should not be underestimated, as they've become increasingly sophisticated and come to expect both qualified care and expertise, which only a good education can provide. Officially taking over the business in April of last year from her mother, founder Catherine Hinds, An Hinds is focused on establishing a set of standards for the industry. She attributes the lack of standards to the fact that the industry is both fragmented and young. "I want to strengthen the hand of the spa therapist," says Hinds. "They won't be perceived as real professionals unless they have a science-based education." For more information, call (800) 421-SKIN.