Feb. 27—HERMITAGE — Along with its regular services, the Tails of Hope Spay and Neuter Clinic is starting a program that to help train a new generation of veterinary assistants by providing them with real-world experience.
Tails of Hope's Student Volunteer Program launched Feb. 19, with about seven students from the Lawrence County Career and Technical Center coming to the clinic's location at Thomas M. O'Brien Animal Care Center in Hermitage.
The students' main vet assistant instructor at LCCTC is Ariel Yanek, and Bonnie Kerlek, a veterinarian at Tails of Hope, sometimes fills in for Yanek at LCCTC, the county's vocational training school.
Through the program at Tails of Hope, students are able to perform tasks such as animal handling and restraint, providing emergency animal first aid, using veterinary terminology and more, according to a press release.
"The students can finally apply to live patients what they've been learning from textbooks and videos in the classroom," Yanek said.
When bringing the students to Tails of Hope for the first day, Kerlek said a few animals were ready to undergo spay-and-neuter procedures at the time, so students were able to get right to work with the clinic's staff.
Instruction at Tails of Hope began will continue every other Friday until May 28. Since the students were already familiar with Yanek and Kerlek from LCCTC, Kerlek said that previous experience helped make students comfortable with their first day of hands-on instruction.
"The students were kind of quiet and reserved, but they were really excited to get to work," Kerlek said.
At LCCTC, the training program for vet assistant students is a three-year program, starting when the students are high school sophomores, Kerlek said. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, demand for veterinary assistant jobs is projected to grow 19% through 2028.
Though there isn't necessarily a certification that's required upon graduation, Kerlek said most places tend to hire based on job experience, so opportunities such as the volunteer program offered by Tails of Hope can be a boost for the students not just in terms of education, but for their potential careers.
"If I was an employer and I saw on your resume that you went to school and worked at a clinic or shelter, I'd hire you," Kerlek said.
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