Veterinarian with cat.

Despite the pandemic, the veterinary healthcare industry has been overwhelmed with patients and appointments. While other sectors, from healthcare to manufacturing, have been forced to furlough workers veterinary practices have had to hire more team members to meet their clients’ needs. With a deficit of trained, skilled veterinary assistants, practices are feeling the strain of increased appointments and teams are stretched thin attempting to keep up.

A dearth of talented workers, however, is nothing new for the industry - the Bureau of Labor Statistics projected a 16% increase in the need for veterinary assistants over the next ten years. Addressing the gap between the need for workers in the field and the lack of those qualified to fill these roles is crucial to supporting the growth of private and corporate veterinary practices, as well as bolstering a slowly stagnating economy.

The importance of the veterinary assistant

Often, the role a veterinary assistant plays on a veterinary healthcare team is overlooked in favor of focusing on certified veterinary technicians and practice managers. But each member of the veterinary healthcare team plays a pivotal role in maintaining a well-run office that emphasizes quality care. The veterinary assistant is a jack of all trades, often the first face pet owners see in the office and are responsible for a variety of tasks that ensure the veterinarian and veterinary technicians can focus on patient care.

As curbside and telemedicine appointments become the norm for both human and animal healthcare, efficient and talented veterinary assistants will be in higher demand than ever before. From the beginning of July through the last week of August, daily average practice revenue increased 14% versus revenue in 2019. More Americans have adopted new pets during quarantine, while veteran pet owners are spending more time at home, noticing more minute behaviors of their animals.

While veterinary medicine has seen an influx of revenue and patients, other sectors have continued to lose money, forcing them to furlough employees to avert financial disaster. According to the recently released jobs report, the United States added 1.4 million jobs in August, down from 1.7 million in July. Further, unemployment hovered at 8.4% - better than previous months, but still higher than the peak joblessness in past recessions. It makes sense, then, to pair displaced workers with much-needed open roles in veterinary clinics. But what happens when unemployed workers don’t meet the minimum education requirement of a high school diploma or its equivalent?

Building a stronger workforce

A high school diploma has been the most viable pathway to securing work in the United States, as more and more employers require it for entry-level positions. The unemployment rate for Americans without a high school diploma is consistently and significantly higher than the national average, hitting 14.5%. Without this credential, it’s nearly impossible for these displaced workers to fill high-demand roles. To build a stronger workforce and meet employer’s needs, offering a pathway for displaced and furloughed workers to earn a high school diploma while gaining job-ready skills can be a win-win. Not only are unemployed workers able to improve their chances of finding viable, long term employment, they offer a larger talent pool for hiring managers and staffing agencies.

Penn Foster’s High School Diploma with Career Pathways allows learners to earn their high school credential while preparing for an in-demand career. The Veterinary Assistant Pathway combines standard high school curriculum with elective courses focused on building the foundation for a career in veterinary medicine. The outcome? Qualified applicants that can meet job requirements for open roles, while also having insight into the needs of the role before starting, allowing them to seamlessly join a busy veterinary team. Further, the foundational courses included in the pathway programs offer the opportunity for learners to take the next step in their career with a head start by transferring introductory coursework into the NAVTA-approved Veterinary Assistant Career Program.

Fostering career growth and economic opportunity through development and education benefits not only the learner, but employers, customers, and the overall health of the veterinary workforce. For more information on leveraging online training for your learners, contact a Penn Foster training expert.