By Megan Harris Messenger-Inquirer | Posted: Wednesday, August 15, 2012 12:00 am
Gov. Steve Beshear and a slew of regional legislators joined Owensboro Community amp; Technical College President James Klauber on Tuesday at the unveiling of the school's newest two-year program, veterinary technology. "Today we're here to celebrate the marriage between our institutions of higher learning and our workplace," said Beshear, whose oldest son is a veterinarian outside the commonwealth. "I know the importance of these vet techs personally because of the experience that he has," Beshear said. The program, which should begin next fall, is funded through a $475,500 grant provided by the Multi-County Coal Severance Program. Klauber said Monday his team will spend the next year developing prerequisite curricula and designing class loads while construction takes over OCTC's downtown campus, renovating laboratories and classrooms, installing surgical facilities, indoor/outdoor animal holds and additional office space. Teasing Klauber, Daviess Judge-Executive Al Mattingly said the vet tech addition felt appropriate as Klauber "used him as a dog uses a bone" during the grant process, approved through both the fiscal courts in Daviess and Hancock counties. "Today, with resources being as scarce as they are, it behooves each and every one of us to work collaboratively and regionally to make these types of programs available to our citizens," Mattingly said. "It means so much to this community, and I thank you." In the grant proposal, Klauber cited a job forecast issued by the Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet in 2010 that said vet technologists and technicians will be the fastest growing occupation in Kentucky requiring an associate's degree, expected to grow by almost 39 percent through 2018 about five times the average rate for all other occupations combined.
OCTC conducted an employer survey of veterinarians in western Kentucky to assess program need in which several dozen veterinary practitioners said they have trouble finding and keeping qualified staffers, especially among the local population. Last year's U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Outlook Handbook reported a critical shortage of vet techs nationally, Klauber explained, because of a limited number of two-year programs. At present, only two in-state, four-year universities Morehead State University and Murray State University offer programs. OCTC's service area is situated in Kentucky's First and Second congressional districts, which according to the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service, were ranked 14th and 15th in the nation for total farm operators, 67,282, and number of farms, 46,882, in 2007. "We saw a need, and we acted on it," Klauber said. "This is something I'm so proud of, something we really need."
Megan Harris, 691-7302, firstname.lastname@example.org