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March 11, 2019

UMA, YCCC agreement aims to fill veterinary technician gap

Courtesy / University of Maine Augusta
Courtesy / University of Maine Augusta
Veterinary techniician students at the University of Maine Augusta's Bangor campus tend to a patient. The college, York County Community College and Maine Veterinary Medical Center announced an agreement that will fill a workforce gap for the positions.

ABOUT MAINE VETERINARY MEDICAL CENTER

Maine Veterinary Medical Center is a veterinary referral and emergency practice specializing in canine and feline internal medicine, neurology, neurosurgery, surgery, critical care, CT scanning and MRI imaging and emergency services. The hospital is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and provides emergency referrals and emergency services for all pets.

An agreement that will help ease a shortage of veterinary technicians, where positions range from the local humane shelter to companies like IDEXX and Jackson laboratories, has been finalized.

The University of Maine at Augusta, York County Community College and the Maine Veterinary Medical Center announced today a partnership that will make it easier for students earning an associate vet tech degree at YCCC to move on to a bachelor's degree at UMA.

The agreement was announced today at the Maine Veterinary Medical Center in Scarborough.

UMA partners with MVMC on student internships at veterinary offices and rescue centers, where students receive get hands-on experience in the field. The internships are a required element towards becoming a licensed vet tech.

Traditional small animal clinics are always seeking licensed and qualified individuals, as well as biotech companies such as Jackson Labs and IDEXX, according to a joint news release from the colleges and medical center.

Veterinary technology positions are in demand in the state. According to vettechnicians.org, there are 720 vet techs and 530 vet assistants working in Maine. Vet techs are required to have at least an associate degree from a college accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association, complete an internship and pass a licensing exam.

The organization said that vet techs in Maine earn an average of $32,930, which is higher than the national average. Top earners can make $42,750 a year.

The U.S. Department of Labor projects the need nationwide will grow 20% between 2016 and 2026.

"As the number of households with pets and spending on pets continue to rise, there is expected to be increasing demand for veterinary technologists and technicians to perform laboratory work and imaging services on household pets," the release said.

The agreement is a milestone for YCCC's vet tech program, Margaret Wheeler, a professor of veterinary technology at YCCC, said in the release. The fact that students will be able to complete an associate degree, as well as a bachelor's degree, "while remaining in the practice that likely helped facilitate their success at YCCC, is an incredible value."

"That value serves the student, the veterinary practice that has invested in the student's growth and both YCCC and UMA," she said.

UMA professor Jennifer Freese said the partnership means that there are more statewide opportunities in veterinary technology. "Students in southern Maine can complete the first two year of their education close to home," she said.

Maine Veterinary Medical Center is always seeking qualified individuals to fill veterinary technology positions, Lisa Quinones, MVMC human resources manager said in the release, and the option for students to get a bachelor's degree at UMA will help meet the need.

Some career opportunities available to licensed veterinary technicians include small-animal medicine; equine medicine; food animal medicine; zoo and wildlife medicine; emergency, referral, specialty medicine; lab animal medicine (research); regulatory medicine (protect well-being of animals); veterinary practice management; veterinary product marketing and sales; animal nutrition; and humane work or shelter medicine.

"Additionally, veterinary technology graduates often find employment opportunities in government agencies, zoos and in the education field," the release said. "Veterinary technicians often will own/manage their own businesses in professional pet care instead of or in addition to working in the medical field."

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