When I was in high school, the big push was to take as many upper-level courses as you could to prepare for college. Unfortunately, it was so hard to know what career path you truly wanted to take. Now, however, high school students are encouraged to explore other available options through a variety of paths. One of those paths is the New Market Skills Center. This local vocational school is celebrating its thirty-first year and is continuing to grow with more programs, more students and more impact on our community.

One unique program offered at New Market is the pre-vet tech program. Executive Director of New Market, Kris Blum, says the pre-vet tech course of study has been around for more than ten years. And, she adds that the training offered is much needed in our area. “There is a huge shortage of veterinary assistants in our community, so much so that it’s hard to find instructors in the field.”

New Market Skills Center was originally created as a collaboration between ten different high schools to give students an opportunity to explore a variety of career paths before graduation. “Students can come and get technical industry training and still meet some of their other graduation requirements while attending here,” Kris explains. But that does not mean they have to separate from their own high school or not graduate with their friends. “You’re still an Oly kid, you’re still a North Thurston kid. The only difference is the class you are taking is on a different campus.”

New Market Skills Center
Programs range from Culinary Arts, Cosmetology, Automotive Repair, to Pre-Vet Tech. Photo credit: New Market Skills Center

These classes are available for a variety of career paths including culinary arts, automotive repair, graphic design, cosmetology and pre-vet tech. Sometimes, mainstream, academic courses are not a good fit for a student. Instead, students can come to New Market and find a course that piques their interest and suits their skills while still fulfilling their course credits.

For example, in the pre-vet tech program, students earn credits in lab science, anatomy and physiology through their vet-tech courses. And, at the same time, they are getting a jump start on a career after graduation. Kris says, “If the students get a B or better, they will earn quite a few credits that will transfer. This allows them to waive some of the requirements if they go into a veterinary assistant program later.”

The pre-vet tech program focuses on preparing students for the real world with skills to obtain a job after high school, regardless if they choose to pursue higher education. Kris says they do not focus on just one position, but instead explore a variety of job clusters in the field. From being a dog groomer or running your own kennel, to becoming a veterinarian, there are many possibilities stemming from this one program. And sometimes, the value is found in learning a program or field is not the right fit. “I think it’s just as important for kids to realize they don’t like doing something, especially before they are paying college tuition,” Kris explains.

New Market Skills Center
The Pre-Vet Tech program explores a variety of jobs within the animal field, including dog grooming. Photo credit: New Market Skills Center

A valuable part of the program is the hands-on experience the students receive. “Every Friday they have a dog wash and that becomes part of their leadership training. They have to talk to people on the telephone, making all the appointments. They are in charge of organizing and scheduling everything,” Kris says. The reality, she shares, is that “only ten percent of high school graduates have the skills needed to get a job.” Even if they have plans to continue with higher education, it is great to have a skill set they can fall back on. “Some of these kids use their skills to earn money while they attend college. It may not be their long-term career goal, but it may be a way to earn money while they put themselves through school,” Kris explains.

Because New Market has such a strong reputation, Kris says they receive many calls from local businesses looking for students to hire. “There isn’t a time when I don’t go into a dog daycare or a groomer’s and see someone who says, ‘Hey, I graduated from the pre-vet tech program.’”

New Market Skills Center
Upon graduation, many students will earn technical certificates, while others will have course credit for higher education. Photo credit: New Market Skills Center

However, what the students choose to do with the skills they obtain is up to them. As Kris likes to say, “It’s like a giant wheel with many different jumping off points along the way.”

New Market Skills Center has open registration throughout the school year. If you or your student is interested in learning more about the pre-vet tech program or other areas of study, visit the center’s website. They also offer information sessions to potential students and their families every Friday.

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