San Francisco SPCA and Jewish Vocational Service, in Partnership with Foothill College, Launch First-of-Its-Kind Apprenticeship Program for Veterinary Assistants

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Students will be paid to attend college while receiving on-the-job training at the SF SPCA

February 22, 2018 – The San Francisco SPCA has collaborated with Jewish Vocational Service (JVS) and Foothill College to launch the first-ever veterinary assistant apprenticeship program in the field of animal health. Designed specifically for San Francisco residents, the program offers those who are underemployed, without a job, or looking for a career change, the chance to grow while staying in the city. The program, which is two years in the making, recently received approval by the State of California and is now a registered apprenticeship.

In this two-year program, apprentices get on-the-job training and complete college coursework while being paid for a 40-hour workweek and receiving full benefits. Upon completion, students will become full-time veterinary assistants at the SF SPCA and have the opportunity to continue their education at Foothill College. Apprentices will gain the specialized knowledge needed to thrive in the field, which is expected to grow 19% by 2024. The SF SPCA alone plans to hire 175 veterinary assistants over the next five years.

“This program has the ability to transform lives,” said Dr. Jennifer Scarlett, SF SPCA President. “The SF SPCA is a local organization, and giving back to the community is one of the cornerstones of our values. The apprenticeship program will give San Franciscans – especially those who are unemployed or underemployed – the opportunity to not only gain steady work, but also build a stable and fulfilling career path in the city they call home.”

In April 2018, the first cohort, consisting of seven to twelve students, will begin the program, and new cohorts will start every six months thereafter. Once the apprenticeship is completed, students can enroll in the Foothill College Advanced Veterinary Assisting program, and will also become SF SPCA employees. In addition to being San Francisco residents, apprentices must have a high school diploma or GED, English literacy, basic math skills, eligibility to work in the US, and be age 18 or over.

“The SF SPCA takes great pride in being a local organization and they want their team to be made up of people who have roots in this great city.” said Lisa Countryman, JVS Vice President of Planning and Program Development. “JVS worked with the SF SPCA to design this apprenticeship program. We’re proud of this innovative approach to meeting the SF SPCA’s ongoing need for veterinary assistants while helping people launch new careers at the same time.”

“Nationally, there has been a shortage of veterinary assistants for many years,” explained Alice Jordan, SF SPCA Senior Vice President of People Development and Education. “The SF SPCA has a 150-year history of pioneering innovative, groundbreaking solutions to complex problems. In keeping with this tradition, we joined forces with Foothill College and JVS to tackle the veterinary assistant shortage. The result is a new apprenticeship program, unlike anything that has been done before in the field of veterinary medicine.”

“We welcome the opportunity to create a new model of ‘earn while you learn’ teaching in veterinary assisting,” said Lisa Eshman, Director of the Foothill College Veterinary Technology Program. “Completion of this program gives a thorough education with hands-on experience to animal lovers looking for a meaningful career.”

Ultimately, the goal is to make a model program that can be replicated by other organizations, both within the nonprofit world and beyond.

To learn more, visit


About the San Francisco SPCA

The San Francisco SPCA is an independent, community-supported, non-profit animal welfare organization dedicated to saving, protecting and providing immediate care for cats and dogs who are homeless, ill or in need of an advocate. The SF SPCA also works long-term to educate the community, reduce the number of unwanted kittens and puppies through spaying and neutering, and improve the quality of life for animals and their human companions. The organization does not receive government funding and is not affiliated with any national organization.

For more information, call the SF SPCA at (415) 554-3000 or visit

About Foothill College

Founded in 1957, Foothill College is one of two accredited institutions in the Foothill-De Anza Community College District. Along with its sister college De Anza, Foothill serves the Santa Clara County communities of Cupertino, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Mountain View, Palo Alto, Sunnyvale and west San Jose, with a combined population of more than 400,000 residents.  The college provides high-quality undergraduate education at an affordable price for students and maintains the primary mission of advancing California through education, training, and workforce improvement. Located in the heart of Silicon Valley, the college sits on 122 rolling acres in Los Altos Hills.

About Jewish Vocational Service

Jewish Vocational Service (JVS) is the Bay Area’s leading job training agency helping nearly 3,000 people annually to build skills and secure good, living wage jobs on a career pathway. Our free trainings help unemployed and underemployed people build careers in healthcare, financial services, technology and more to come. JVS is a nonprofit, non-sectarian, communitybased organization with a 40-year track record serving job seekers and Bay Area employers.

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