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Foothill Launches New Veterinary Assistant Apprenticeship Program

Students will be paid for on-the-job training at the SF SPCA

vet assistants

Foothill College has collaborated with the San Francisco SPCA and Jewish Vocational Service (JVS) to launch the first-ever veterinary assistant apprenticeship program in the field of animal health. Designed specifically for San Francisco residents, the program offers those who are underemployed, without a job, or looking for a career change, the chance to grow while staying in the city. The program, which is two years in the making, recently received approval by the State of California and is now a registered apprenticeship.

In this two-year program, apprentices get on-the-job training and complete Foothill College coursework while being paid for a 40-hour workweek and receiving full benefits. Upon completion, students will become full-time veterinary assistants at the SF SPCA and have the opportunity to continue their education at Foothill. Apprentices will gain the specialized knowledge needed to thrive in the field, which is expected to grow 19% by 2024. The SF SPCA alone plans to hire 175 veterinary assistants over the next five years.

“We welcome the opportunity to create a new model of ‘earn while you learn’ teaching in veterinary assisting,” said Lisa Eshman, Director of the Foothill College Veterinary Technology Program. “Completion of this program gives a thorough education with hands-on experience to animal lovers looking for a meaningful career.”

In April 2018, the first cohort, consisting of seven to twelve students, will begin the program, and new cohorts will start every six months thereafter. Once the apprenticeship is completed, students can enroll in the Foothill College Advanced Veterinary Assisting program, and will also become SF SPCA employees. In addition to being San Francisco residents, apprentices must have a high school diploma or GED, English literacy, basic math skills, eligibility to work in the US, and be age 18 or over.

“This program has the ability to transform lives,” said Dr. Jennifer Scarlett, SF SPCA President. “The SF SPCA is a local organization, and giving back to the community is one of the cornerstones of our values. The apprenticeship program will give San Franciscans – especially those who are unemployed or underemployed – the opportunity to not only gain steady work, but also build a stable and fulfilling career path in the city they call home.”

“The SF SPCA takes great pride in being a local organization and they want their team to be made up of people who have roots in this great city.” said Lisa Countryman, JVS Vice President of Planning and Program Development. “JVS worked with the SF SPCA to design this apprenticeship program. We’re proud of this innovative approach to meeting the SF SPCA’s ongoing need for veterinary assistants while helping people launch new careers at the same time.”

“Nationally, there has been a shortage of veterinary assistants for many years,” explained Alice Jordan, SF SPCA Senior Vice President of People Development and Education. “The SF SPCA has a 150-year history of pioneering innovative, groundbreaking solutions to complex problems. In keeping with this tradition, we joined forces with Foothill College and JVS to tackle the veterinary assistant shortage. The result is a new apprenticeship program, unlike anything that has been done before in the field of veterinary medicine.”

Ultimately, the goal is to make a model program that can be replicated by other organizations, both within the nonprofit world and beyond.

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