ROP’s veterinary program draws new workers and mid-career shifters |

ROP’s veterinary program draws new workers and mid-career shifters

Most high school students are familiar with the career training opportunities available through ROP that include automotive, computer technology and law enforcement.

But what many adults don’t know is ROP courses – through the 49er Regional Occupational Program – are open to them, too, and offer a unique opportunity to retrain in a new career.

Because ROP courses offer internships with local “partner sites,” it’s a good way for job seekers to get their foot in the door – and for students to get training in interview techniques and resume-writing.

Kathy Love, who teaches Animals and Veterinary Careers, estimated that about 30 percent of her students are adults.

“Usually, they’re retraining, changing careers,” Love said. “They’re reaching a point in their life where they’re ready to do what they want to do – and now’s the time to jump. ROP offers a safe environment for doing that.”

It can be difficult for an adult learner to go back to school, especially when it comes to absorbing very technical material, Love acknowledged.

“But they’re all on the same page here – there’s no competition,” said Love, who cheerfully admits to being “a cheerleader.”

The job market has room for both the high school students and the adult learners, she said.

“Both age groups are very marketable,” Love said. “The adults bring maturity and responsibility and reliability, and the young students are more energetic, more physical. It’s a nice blend for the training sites, and there’s a spot for everyone.”

ROP courses follow the high school schedule, starting the third week of August. It has no pre-requisites. The course is free for high school students and costs adults $100 a semester.

After two months of in-class instruction, students begin internships in the community. Love places students in every veterinary clinic in the county, as well as with dog groomers, pet store, stables, kennels – even a dairy goat farm.

Laura Leathley is one of Love’s adult students, gaining work experience at Brunswick Veterinary Clinic in Grass Valley.

“I definitely want to continue through and become a registered vet tech,” she said. “I feel so comfortable here. They’ve made me feel like part of the clinic, a part of the team – not just a student.”

The clinic supervisor, registered vet technician Melinda Dudley tries to incorporate what ROP students are learning in the classroom, such as drawing blood and restraining animals, plus provide hands-on training, she said.

But the clinic derives an enormous benefit as well, Dudley added.

“I really depend on the ROP (students) – they’re my eyes,” Dudley said. “I can’t be everywhere, and patient care is really important.”

The employment future is bright for veterinary medicine, Love said, adding the field is in the top 10 of growing and needed professions. The ROP course is a great introduction, she said.

“We cover a wide range, not just of jobs, but of issues,” Love said. “It’s a very well-rounded beginning to getting an education in veterinary medicine. It offers the opportunity for people to really experience the career fully, instead of just through lectures and books – to find out if you can do it.

“Loving animals is one criteria, but that’s not enough.”

At the end of the ROP course, students are qualified to work as veterinary assistants. They can then continue on, either at Yuba College or at Western Career College.

“The field has really changed in the last 20 years, it’s very high-tech now, and there is a great demand for skilled workers,” Love said. “You used to be able to walk in and get trained (on the job). Now, you need to be able to do lab work, etc. The whole field has become very technical.”

Leathley – who originally took the course in high school – can attest to those changes.

“It’s amazing how far veterinary medicine has come in such a short time,” she said. “It’s almost like having to relearn everything.”

“A lot of the clinics in the county are filled with my past students,” Love commented.

In the past, Love estimated, about 75 percent of her ROP graduates would get jobs.

“With the economy, that percentage has dipped,” she said. “But the ROP graduates have a leg up on the competition … If someone has an opening, the student is a shoo-in. I tell them, make a niche for yourself.”

To contact Staff Writer Liz Kellar, e-mail or call (530) 477-4229.

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