A new campaign targets an emerging problem in the massage industry: not enough massage therapists.

Nonprofit organization Beauty Changes Lives has responded to this challenge with the Make Your Mark campaign, an effort to help young people understand that the beauty and wellness profession is a first-choice career. Mentorship, inspiration and scholarships are key components of the campaign.

The Make Your Mark micro-site lets people explore various careers in beauty and wellness and rub elbows with icons of the industry and influencers who share rewarding stories of their careers.

Beauty Changes Lives CEO Lynelle Lynch said she was inspired in part by the culinary industry. “I’ve always taken it as a challenge that the culinary industry 26 years ago launched the Food Network with Emeril Lagasse and all these stars,” said Lynch. “And as a result, kids are now coming to their parents and saying, ‘I want to be a chef,” and they’ll go spend $10,000 on culinary school. It’s considered a prestigious career.”

She wants the same for the beauty-and-wellness field.

MASSAGE Magazine spoke with Lynch about her organization’s plan to get more people interested in massage as a career.

A Growing Need

The catalyst for the Make Your Mark campaign was a survey by The 2018 ISPA U.S. Spa Industry Study, by the International Spa Association. Every year the ISPA has London-based research firm PricewaterhouseCoopers conduct a survey on job vacancies within the spa industry.

“They were in a full-tilt panic,” Lynch explains. “At the start of 2018, they were concerned about the fact that there were 35,000 service provider jobs open in the wellness industry.

“The numbers that were reported this year were down to 32,730,” she added. “Out of that, 7,310 are unfilled massage therapist positions.”

Although the ISPA survey covers the entire spa industry, massage is a key concern. “They let us know that massage was the most critical career right now to focus on,” Lynch says.

“Over the next 10 years, there is going to be a need for 1,343,000 wellness professionals,” she added. “The massage portion of that is 200,000 — so if we don’t unite to get the message out, it could get even worse.”

Why is that? There isn’t a definitive answer, but the number of massage schools is on the decline meaning, of course, fewer new massage therapists entering the field.

Spreading the Word

Lynch is the owner of Bellus Academy, a San Diego, California-based beauty-and-wellness school. She created Beauty Changes Lives to change the public’s perception of the beauty and wellness industries. In her words, she wants to make beauty and wellness first-choice careers for the next generation.

“I’ve always taken it as a challenge that the culinary industry 20 years ago launched the Food Network with Emeril Lagasse and all these stars,” said Lynch. “And as a result, kids are now coming to their parents and saying, ‘I want to be a chef,” and they’ll go spend $10,000 on culinary school. It’s considered a prestigious career.”

According to Lynch, due to the lack of people entering the wellness industry, and the lack of massage therapists, spas aren’t doing the business they could. They are seeing growth, as evidenced by ISPA’s 2019 report, but in Lynch’s view they could have exponentially more growth.

“Schools are not seeing people enrolling for massage, so we are taking the approach that we have got to change that from the very beginning,” she said. “The perception of the industry is really why Beauty Changes Lives was created. To lift up careers in beauty and in wellness and showcase them as credible, life-fulfilling, financially successful careers.”

The Next Generation

According to Lynch, the tact taken by the Make Your Mark campaign is to talk to Generation Z in a language they understand. “We want to show them how credible and how exciting and how rich and rewarding these careers can be, and then give them a pathway to explore these careers on their own terms,” she said.

Beauty Changes Lives united with salon associations, salon chains, and salon product manufacturers, and hired the Woo Agency, a Hollywood, California-based ad agency, to get a handle on the upcoming generation of potential recruits. The Woo Agency did a deep analysis of Gen Z and reported that, in stark contrast with the last generation, which had a general attitude of “everything needs to be given to me for free,” Gen Z is fiercely independent.

“They are a shop-on-consignment generation,” Lynch says. “That’s a beautiful example of how they are fiscally responsible. They want to make their mark. They want to have a defined career, where the opportunities are unlimited, and yet they’re doing something that is fiscally responsible.”

And what better way is there to go than a career in beauty or in wellness? She asks. “Because you can obtain your career in less than a year. You can get your license and then start in this industry.”

Lynch explains that this younger generation has grown up with technology. “They live on Youtube,” she says. “Even my students that I see here at the Bellus Academy come to school so much more sophisticated because they spend hours and hours on Youtube, searching and learning about the craft.”

The Make Your Mark campaign intends to make the most of the younger generation’s can-do attitude, their sophistication with technology, and their added exposure and knowledge of their fields.

A Helping Hand

Taking the next step and offering a helping hand to potential MTs, Beauty Changes Lives has partnered with the International Spa Association to sponsor a scholarship. Named the Esthetics/MUA/Massage Therapy Student Scholarship, and geared specifically towards esthetics, makeup and massage, the scholarship is offering $1,000 to nine students who are enrolled at an academy and have not yet completed more than 50% of their coursework.

Applicants are required to record a video of themselves explaining why a career in massage would fulfill their passion and demonstrating a bit of their massage technique. The focus should be on showing originality and artistic execution.

The deadline for applying is October 31. If that date is past, potential recruits should check back at the Beauty Changes Lives’ Scholarships at a Glance page, as the nonprofit is always adding scholarships and future application dates will be posted there.

Lynch is firm on her commitment to recruit massage students to fill the anticipated vacuum.

“The International Spa Association was the very first to demand that we move in this direction and launch a campaign,” she said. “They let us know that massage was the most critical career right now to focus on,” she says.

Phillip Weber is a San Diego-based writer and co-founder of The English Adept, a language-learning website where he blogs frequently. He has written several news and feature articles for MASSAGE Magazine, including “Grief Massage Therapy Sessions Help Clients Cope” and “The World Championship in Massage: Building an International Touch Community” (both, massagemag.com).

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