Posted on 10/13/2015

Betsy Hensley is the instructor for Nashoba Tech’s burgeoning Veterinary Assisting program, which has been approved by the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. The program is accepting freshmen and sophomores this year. An actual clinic, where students will train on how to treat animals, is scheduled to open at the school in February in affiliation with Angell Animal Medical Center.

WESTFORD — Nashoba Tech, in its goal to provide students with career pathways in the most in-demand professions, has added two vital programs for the 2015-2016 school year — Biotechnology and VeterinaryAssisting.
          Both programs have been approved by the state Department ofElementary and Secondary Education.       
           The Veterinary Assisting program is available for the first time this year to freshmen and sophomores, and school officials are expecting it to be a popular program.       
              While a veterinary clinic — in which students will be able to train with professionals from Boston-based Angell Animal Medical Center —won’t be up and running until likely February, underclass students accepted into the Veterinary Assisting Program will begin to learn the basics of veterinary science.
        For the first several months of the program, students will undergo training in the academic aspects of veterinary science in a classroom setting before receiving hands-on training in the clinic, which will be staffed by an Angell professional.        The program is the first of its kind for a high school in theMiddlesex and Nashoba valleys.       
             The Veterinary Assistant program will fill a need in the area to produce trained and certified assistants to local veterinarians, of which there are many. Within a few miles of Nashoba Tech — on Route110 in Westford and Chelmsford alone — there are at least four veterinary clinics and hospitals.
        Betsy Hensley, who has more than 20 years in the veterinary industry,is teaching the new program. She said students will learn about handling and restraint, safety, anatomy and physiology, husbandry, breed differentials, disease humans can get from animals, and much more.
        And once the program is approved by the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America, seniors will be able to sit for the Approved Veterinary Assisting exam and find employment with a veterinarian after graduation.        “There is a long list of pathways students can take once they graduate from the program,” Hensley said. “Do they want to be a veterinary technician? Do they want to go on to veterinary school?There are so many options.”
        Hensley said there is a drastic need for entry-level veterinary assistants in the area. “More and more veterinarians are hiring veterinary assistants,” she said. “They just don’t have the staff. This program will give NashobaTech students a huge leg up.”
        Only ninth-graders and 10th-graders are being accepted into the program this year. No upperclassmen will be accepted the first year because students must undergo at least two years of training in a technical program to be able to become certified.
        Ann Marie Greenleaf, DVM, DACVECC, chief of staff at Angell AnimalMedical Center, said Angell is looking forward to partnering with Nashoba Tech to provide a clinic “targeting low-income pet owners who otherwise would lack access to veterinary care.”
        She said the Angell clinic at Nashoba Tech will provide assistance from trained Nashoba Tech students, discounted spay/neuter services, vaccinations and basic veterinary care, but not specialty care or 24/7emergency service, as Angell’s Boston and Waltham facilities do.
        “We are pleased to help train more veterinary technicians in the area through this program,” Greenleaf said.
        Up and running is the Biotechnology portion of the highly successful Engineering Academy.
        “Biotech is a continuation of the growth and development of theEngineering Academy,” Superintendent Dr. Judith L. Klimkiewicz said. “It’s an additional component that has a very large job demand in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.”
        According to, employment in biotechnology — or specifically, biopharmaceutical technology — in 2014 experienced its highest annual growth rate since 2008, adding 5 percent more jobs and outpacing the national average. In 2014, there were 60,459 jobs in Massachusetts’ biopharmaceutical industry, based on data from the U.S.Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages. And in the last 10 years, employment in the Massachusetts biopharmaceutical manufacturing industry has increased by 28 percent,while the country as a whole witnessed a 2 percent decrease over the same period.
        The website also states that Massachusetts continues to lead the country in biotech R&D jobs. And the estimated average salary in the biopharmaceutical industry is about $120,000.
        In addition to Biotechnology, Nashoba Tech’s Engineering Academy contains the Engineering Technology and Electronics & Robotics programs. The academy brings students in those three programs together under one umbrella where the technical and academic curricula can be tailored to them.
        The Engineering Academy provides training in civil, electrical,environmental, geophysical, biomedical engineering.
        Both the Veterinary Assisting and Biotechnology programs — as well as Nashoba Tech’s 18 other technical programs — will be part of the school’s Open House on Sunday, Nov. 1, from noon to 3 p.m.