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Octavia Scott, 27, joined Orangeburg's Barber Tech Academy four months ago after she heard about it from a family member.

She is one of nearly two dozen females currently in the program, which has traditionally been male-dominated.

"It has been pretty good," Scott said "I am enjoying it. I would say they are doing a lot to make sure everybody is accommodated and they are adding a lot more programs in right now."

One of the additions is cosmetology.

She says she does not think much about breaking new ground as a woman in what has been a male-dominated field. Enrollment for women in the academy has grown by about 50% since the school's opening in early September.

"It is really great that a lot more of us are coming in and branching out so we can take a little bit of everything and provide services to different clientele," Scott said.

Scott joined other Barber Tech students and employees for a grand opening Nov. 7.

Barber Tech Academy is a post-secondary master barber school located at 1650 Russell St.

The school is located in the former Rhoad's Cleaners building across the street from the former Piggly Wiggly.

Orangeburg resident Brittney Robinson, 20, has been with Barber Tech since August. She heard about the program on the internet.

Since she has joined, she has learned much.

"I am learning to do dreds and relaxers and dyeing hair," she said, noting cutting men's hair is something she is also learning. "I think it is good thing that girls can do both."

Robinson is hoping to eventually open her own salon.

Barber Tech announced in July it was expanding its services into the 4,200-square-foot building in an effort to educate more students with a larger number of amenities.

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Dashaun West is Barber Tech Academy co-founder along with Leonard Pelzer.

The school has been located at 1521 Russell St. at the former U.S. Army recruitment office since 2010, but has outgrown its facility.

The new space is more than twice the size of the existing location. The men are in the process of purchasing the current building.

The building includes a main lobby area, 24 work stations, shampoo bowls, driers, offices, a break room and two multipurpose classrooms with a capacity of 20 individuals per class.

Currently, there are about 40 students going through the program. The school has had as high as 45 students receiving training at any given time. The school has graduated more than 35 students.

Currently, it takes about nine months to a year to receive a license from the State Board of Barber Examiners.

The academy has graduated individuals from as young as 18 to as old as the 50s. High school graduates, college graduates, dislocated workers, veterans, and the disabled have all successfully completed the training and received their license.

The 1,500-credit-class-hour program entails both classroom and hands-on opportunities where students receive information on the hair industry to include infection control, bacteriology, shaving, hair cutting, hair textures, coloring, hair chemicals and natural styles.

The academy has partnered with Job Corps.

Barber Tech is more than just about cutting hair.

The business believes in community outreach by providing haircuts forchildren in the community, working with local schools, vocational rehab, local churches and CASA Family Services.

Barber Tech also partners with the South Carolina State University's Small Business Development Center. The SBDC helps teach the students about small business and how to put together a small business plan.

Barber Tech had its start in a community barber shop in Santee through the help of the South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce via the Workforce Investment Act. WIA helped pay for the training of barbers and these funds were used to start Barber Tech.

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