Service Industry Woes

In the state of Texas a Licensed Massage Therapist is required to take 6 hours of approved continuing education classes a year to renew their license. The purpose of this requirement I presume is to ensure that therapists not only continue to expand their knowledge base but also stay up to date on their current knowledge and skills. In general this policy tends to work out pretty well.

It means that even if a therapist is not currently working in their field, they still have to take classes directly related to massage therapy in order to maintain their licenses. Unfortunately like most government regulations there are always unintended consequences.

Some employers for example have turned their own required training classes into CEU classes (continuing education units). This is not necessarily a bad thing. It can actually be a cheap and efficient way to get both specific job training and your required CEU's at the same time. I know of a chair massage business that does just that. They however require the class only for those who haven't already taken a chair massage training class, and it is a condition of initial employment.

My current employer (whom I have been with for approximately 6 months) seems to have managed to maximize the negative consequences of this law. At the corporate level they recently decided to require all of their therapists to take a 6-hour class on customer service. The catch is that we not only do not get paid for our time, but are required to pay them for it (or more specifically one of their own therapists who is teaching the class).

They achieved this by having the class approved to count as 6 CEU's, and thus the argument goes that its not really unpaid training, it is cheap CEU's. Unfortunately most of the therapists I work with including myself have already filled our required continuing education for the next two years. Thus the cheap CEU's are not only useless they are for a class that does not seem to be offering any real benefit in exchange for our time and money. (Needless to say I have already begun the search for a better employer).

Still, it seems odd to me that I was readily able to get paid training when I was 15 and working my very first job at McDonald's, but now that I have skills that required training I paid for myself, I have an employer that won't even pay me for the time it takes them to tell me what kind of customer service they expect in their own facility.

But before I waggle my finger at state licensing for its potential negative impact on employee benefits in my industry I have to admit that it is my own profession,( i.e. professional massage therapy organizations) that lobby for strict licensing requirements the strongest. This is due in no small part to the widespread belief that only state licensing and regulation can prove the legitimacy of the profession to the general public, and also set it apart from organizations and individuals that use "massage" as a code word for prostitution.

While legalizing prostitution might make such code words unneccesary it would not keep actual prostitutes from advertising massage as one of the services they offer. Thus it seems the battle is a far older one than it appears, and without any simple solutions.

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