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New trade school plans to allow Yukoners in communities to earn esthetics diploma

Elements offers single-skill courses and plans for a full diploma program

Clarification: This article states that Element Esthetics Academy plans to open in January of 2024.

The school has since clarified it is in the final stages of registration for the diploma program. The registrar has said that its diploma program is “upcoming, with no specific date.”

The school’s website is currently accepting expressions of interest for the program.

If it feels like it’s been harder than usual to book a haircut, manicure, or other esthetic service, you’re not wrong.

According to Ammanda Partridge, owner of Elements Esthetics Studio in downtown Whitehorse, salons took a hit during COVID-19. Restrictions meant many spas lost staff, who went on to pursue work in other industries. It also meant that, across the country, fewer new staff were trained to step into those roles once restrictions were lifted.

That’s how Partridge came up with the idea for the Elements Esthetics Academy, which launched this month.

Partridge, academy president, says it will be the Yukon’s first and only trade school for esthetics, offering single-skill courses in manicure, pedicure, hair removal, Swedish massage and more. In January of 2024, it plans to launch a full diploma program that incorporates a northern perspective that Partridge says will be of use to students hoping to work with clients in the North.

“Through the diploma program, we’re going to have a series of speakers talking about traditional knowledge and self-care and different plants,” says Partridge. While she’s still in the process of confirming speakers for the 2024 school year, she says instruction will include information on the uses of northern plants for items such as spruce tip salve and fireweed salve.

It’s something Partridge has been thinking about for almost a decade. Years ago, she says, Yukon University (then Yukon College) had funding for an introduction to aesthetics program. Partridge taught the program in Whitehorse and Old Crow. However, when funding ran out, the program ended. She says a school has been in the back of her mind ever since.

This year, with the help of funding from CanNor and the Yukon government’s Economic Development branch, she was able to secure the proper designations for the school.

She was also able to rent classroom space at Normandy Living in Takhini North.

That location was no fluke. Partridge says it was important to her to find a home base for her academy that was accessible (which she says was hard to find in many commercial offerings in Whitehorse) and close to schools for mothers who might have to shuttle between school for themselves and school for their kids.

“I also really liked the idea of intergenerational space,” Partridge says of Normandy, which offers supported seniors living. “A lot of my clientele [at the studio downtown] are seniors.”

“As soon as she started talking about the school, I was like, ‘That’s a perfect fit for our seniors,’” says Natal Samuelson, executive director of Normandy Living.

Samuelson says she was right. Partridge started operating a few hairdressing chairs out of the salon space in April.

“As soon as we had a hairdresser, people completely abandoned hairdressers they’d been seeing for years.”

Samuelson says she’s excited to see the relationship grow when the school opens in January.

Right now, the school is offering single-skill classes ranging anywhere from $1,000 to $3,495 per course.

After taking one, students earn a specific credential. Those credentials can be put towards the full diploma.

Alternatively, students may soon be able to apply to the full diploma program, which may be completed in as little as six months (tuition for the diploma program is $7,000. It accepts a maximum of six students per year).

And while the single-skill courses are in-person, ranging in length from two to five days depending on the skill, the diploma program can be done remotely.

That’s something else that was important to Partridge.

“I know that struggle of growing up somewhere isolated and not being able to find what you want to do,” says Partridge, who was raised in Stewart, B.C.

She says she grew up in a single-parent home, so when she was given a scholarship to the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC), she took it even though she didn’t want to attend university. Partway through her time at UNBC, she left.

“I didn’t like university, and I knew I wanted to learn a trade,” she says.

Since completing her training in Prince George 20 years ago, Partridge hasn’t looked back. She loves esthetics for the chance they give her to be a part of the best days of people’s lives — weddings, births, big celebrations — as well as their worst, when there’s a death or some grief, and they just need space and a moment for themselves.

The diploma’s planned hybrid delivery style will allow Yukoners outside of Whitehorse to complete the diploma at their own pace.

The program is planned to be front-end-loaded with eight weeks of theory, which can be done over Zoom. That will be followed by two weeks of in-house clinical, where students get to work, hands-on, with residents at Normandy Living. After that, there’s a practicum component that can be done on a flexible schedule. So if a student from Dawson City wants to enrol but can only make it to Whitehorse once a month to log practicum hours, Partridge says it will just take them a little longer to complete the diploma.

For more information on classes, visit

Clarification: An earlier version of this story stated that Element Esthetics Academy will open in January of 2024.

The school has since clarified it is in the final stages of registration for the diploma program. The registrar has said that its diploma program is “upcoming, with no specific date.”

The school’s website is currently accepting expressions of interest for the program.

Contact Amy Kenny at

Amy Kenny

About the Author: Amy Kenny

I moved from Hamilton, Ontario, to the Yukon in 2016 and joined the Yukon News as the Local Journalism Initaitive reporter in 2023.
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