WALTHAM (CBS) – Pandemic pets and their owners are putting a strain on overworked local veterinary offices and animal hospitals. But Minuteman Regional Vocational Technical High School just started a new program to help train new workers in this fast-growing industry.

Through a partnership with the Blue Pearl Animal Hospital in Waltham, students will have the opportunity to learn a variety of skills that, after four years of high school, will make them job-ready for positions as veterinary technicians.

“They will come into a hospital like ours and be able to start doing things like place IV catheters, monitor basic anesthesia and scrub into surgical procedures,” explained Certified Vet Tech Laura Champagne, who will be helping to train students at Blue Pearl.

On the day of our visit, students carefully watched as Champagne shaved the leg of an 11-year-old dog before placing an IV ahead of his surgery for a torn ligament.

“It was so cool,” said student Fiona Sauderson of Arlington. “I’ve had blood taken, but I’ve never seen it on like a dog.”

The students are the very first in Minuteman’s new animal science program. Three years in the making, this program was born out of interest from the students and a desperate need in the industry for workers.

Minuteman High School students at Blue Pearl Animal Hospital in Waltham. (WBZ-TV)

“There is a huge shortage of veterinary technicians, staff [and] doctors,” explained Sasha Mornecy, a Certified Vet Tech who serves as the classroom teacher for the animal science program.

By the time they graduate, the students who choose animal science as their major will be prepped for college, or they’ll be ready to go right to work in an animal clinic or hospital.

“They could get a job instantly. They could get multiple job offers,” Champagne told WBZ-TV.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the veterinary industry is expected to grow 16 percent over the next decade, that’s compared to just four percent for all other occupations combined.

Minuteman High School students at Blue Pearl Animal Hospital in Waltham. (WBZ-TV)

They are only a few weeks into the program, but the students we spoke with are loving it so far.

“I like knowing that if college isn’t for me, I have an opportunity to do something with myself,” said Kaytaki Pathak of Arlington.

For Minuteman, the long-term goal is to open a veterinary clinic on campus that is operated by the students with the help of an industry partner.

Paula Ebben