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VCC Continuing Studies creates convenient pathways

Posted on November 22, 2018

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‌As originally posted in The Georgia Straight

Vancouver Community College has been delivering career education for more than 50 years, including through its continuing-studies division. In an effort to increase accessibility, it has decided to offer three of its eight courses online for those seeking a fashion-merchandising-associate certificate.

“Textiles is currently online,” fashion-programs coordinator Sarah Murray told the Straight by phone. “Fashion forecasting is going to be offered online for the first time in the winter. And the fashion merchandising course will be offered online in the springtime.”

She pointed out that students can take the eight courses—including fashion marketing and promotion, fashion retail management, fashion styling, history of fashion, and retail buying—in whatever sequence they prefer. Students take two courses per term and they can receive a certificate within a year.

“It’s particularly good for people who are working in the retail industry already and are looking to move up,” Murray said. “Whether they want to work at head office or be a manager or supervisor, this program is great for that.”

That’s because it provides a comprehensive overview of the business side of the fashion industry. It’s a sector that will face far more demand for workers in the coming years, according to the 2016 B.C. Alliance for Manufacturing report on the B.C. apparel industry. It forecast that the industry will lose 37.8 percent of its workers through attrition by 2025.

Murray said that some of the greatest demand will be for people who are knowledgeable about merchandising and e-commerce.

As part of VCC’s philosophy of learning by doing, fashion-merchandising students work with local designers to develop marketing plans. Students also organize a photo shoot in their styling class, lining up models, hair and makeup artists, and photographers.

These can be included in the students’ portfolio when they go looking for jobs. “It’s less than $3,000 to get the certificate,” Murray said. “It is a valuable item to have on a résumé because I do think it helps you move up the ranks.”

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It’s not the only style-oriented continuing-studies program. Justin Ewart is program coordinator for the makeup-artistry certificate. There are seven courses offered, but students only need to complete five of them to graduate.

The four required courses are makeup-artistry fundamentals, evening and bridal makeup, fashion and photography makeup, and freelance and career development. Electives include airbrushing makeup, theatrical makeup, and film-and-television makeup.

In a phone interview with the Straight, Ewart explained that it can be done part-time. On average, it takes a student just less than a year and a half, though they can stretch it out to five years if they register for one course per term.

“In the fundamentals course, they learn to identify different skin tones…and how to apply makeup to them, as well as identifying different face shapes, eye shapes, and lip shapes and how to do proper application to them, or even correction to them,” he said. “We teach them how to cover a blemish.”

In addition, students learn how to properly highlight a cheekbone or nose, as well as how to give clients a more defined jawline and adjust the shape of someone’s eye.

“If you take a brush and do the eyeliner down, it’s going to pull down the eye,” Ewart said. “If they angle the eyeliner up, it’s going to lift up the eye.”

He noted that this certificate program can lead to freelance makeup work, as well as employment in the beauty industry. Prospective students should have a good work ethic, a willingness to market their skills, and an ability to work well with clients. “You have to be a people person—someone with a positive attitude.”