Mid-America Technology Center in Wayne is launching a new program in an attempt to combat the decline in large animal caretakers.
The MATC Veterinary Assistant Program, which launches in August, will facilitate a partnership with local livestock producers, animal shelters and veterinarians to provide field trips, guest speakers and internship opportunities to help educate the students in how to care for large animals.
Jona Squires, agriculture business coordinator for MATC and a former agriculture educator at Norman High and Moore High School, said this program will be twofold. Students get an opportunity for hands-on experience, but since the internships are non-paid it doesn’t cost producers anything to provide the experience, and they are in need of assistance.
Justin McGee, who will be the instructor for the program, said the school is equipped to initiate the program smoothly because it's offered an equine program since 1971. He said the administration at MATC is wanting to expand as there has been a high demand from students for programs that teach the skills necessary to succeed in the large animal practice.
McGee said there will likely be high interest at MATC as well. CareerTech programs differ in their dynamics, with theirs being more rural in setting.
McGee said one of the problems constricting producers and meat-packing plants is they don’t have a large enough workforce to care for cattle.
“To be able to do the pharmaceutical and the livestock daily care side is important,” McGee said. “By training students in those endeavors through this program, I hope that would impact that field in a big way, but it will be more of a side impact.”
McGee said meeting with producers and having job interviews will be emphasized. Students will have four weeks of internship clinicals in the one-year program.
“If possible, what I'm shooting for is that they will actually work with four different individuals throughout this program, having the chance to tour facilities, then find out their interest and divide them accordingly. “The students then have to make a resume with a cover letter and references before reaching out to this employer and go to an interview.”
McGee said he and Squires have reached out to several potential employers who have been receptive to the idea of being a part of the program.
“There’s a lot of knowledge these employers can instill into these employers, and I suspect the students will take this more seriously than they would if they were just listening to me in a classroom,” McGee said. “There is so much more that they can learn from others hands-on. The internship clinicals are extremely valuable.”
As the program develops, McGee hopes employers are responsive to the program to the extent that they are seeking out workers, and most of the employers right now are in need of help. He said while the positions are entry-level, the upward mobility is there when they become experienced and handle more responsibilities.
“This is only a one-year class, but I hope in the future this grows and is so well-received that the administration tries to expand it, maybe adding a small animal program,” McGee said.
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