Bringing Pets and People Together, The Michelson Institute for Pet Professions is Creating New Career Paths for Individuals in Pet Care
“Every day that I come here, it makes me better. Every day gives me an opportunity to give something back. I love being here.” – Arlecia, MIPP student
Michelson Found Animals Foundation (MFA) launched the Michelson Institute for Pet Professions (MIPP) in 2021 to provide access to training, certification, and job placement resources in the pet care industry in Los Angeles, starting with dog grooming—the clipping, brushing and shampooing that keeps hairs off the couch and our dogs Westminster-worthy.
The program is geared toward individuals who face systemic financial and access barriers to education and employment.
The program attracts people from all walks of life, but there is one thing each and every student has in common: a love for animals. MIPP partners with in-community service providers to reach prospective students who otherwise might not have considered a career path in grooming. Los Angeles partners include the LGBT Center, Homeless Outreach Program Integrated Care System (HOPICS), LA Opportunity Youth Collaborative, Anti-Recidivism Coalition, and Homeboy Industries.
“We started this program as a means to help with the staff shortage we’ve seen amongst animal welfare workers; it’s also a great way for people who love pets to follow that passion and work with pets in a professional environment.” – Heather Thomas, Program Manager, MIPP
MIPP operates with the support of West Coast Grooming Academy’s training program currently located at Annenberg Pet Space in Playa Vista, CA. Students are accepted into a 12-week, hands-on pet grooming certification course and provided a toolkit of supplies upon graduation, with the cost fully covered by MFA. The tuition and tools provided are valued at more than $8,000, which alleviates a huge financial hurdle for these students. During the course, students learn dog body language, bathing, and grooming techniques and receive a professional certification.
“The grooming industry is experiencing a severe shortage of dog groomers right now. By the year 2026 we’re going to need 62,000 new groomers entering the field.” – Jessica Johnson, Chief Academic Officer, West Coast Grooming Academy
MIPP has now graduated more than 100 graduates since its launch. Every student that graduates has the potential to reach thousands of animals through a career in grooming. Here are some of MIPP’s current students and how they aspire to embark on this new career path.
Arlecia learned about the MIPP program from a reference at A New Way of Life, a reentry project that provides housing, case management, pro bono legal services, advocacy, and leadership development for people rebuilding their lives after incarceration.
“MIPP has impacted me by giving me more skills and training in the field I want to pursue, which is dog training and grooming. Every day that I come here, it makes me better. Every day gives me an opportunity to give something back. I love being here. What I hope to do when I finish the program is give back to my community by going downtown to the mission and servicing the dogs there and change their attitudes the same way when we go to the beauty shop, and it changes ours.”
Alexis was working in the retail and restaurant industries and not getting the fulfillment he was looking for. He found out about the MIPP program through a referral from the employment office at the LGBT Center in Los Angeles.
“This is a career, a path, I can do. I can start my own business with this. I’m enjoying it, I love it; it actually makes my day coming here.”
Jonathan was working as a dog washer and looking to further his career in pet care when he found MIPP online.
“I’ve always loved dogs. The most important thing is having a bond with the dog. When you help dogs, they love you, and that bond stays with you forever.”
Inri was working as a Lyft driver when one day she was chatting with a passenger, who happened to be an MIPP student on their way to class. She looked into the program and thought it was just the thing she was looking for.
“MIPP has given me a reminder that there is so much to look forward to. I’m looking for a change in my life. You’re never too old to start again. I’m already working on establishing my own business and moving forward, I’m really excited about it.”
Marina with fellow MIPP students (In middle petting husky)
A passionate animal lover, Marina was working with Stray Cat Alliance and wondering how she could grow her career working with animals, especially helping those coming from rescues and shelters. When she found out the program was based out of Annenberg Petspace, a rescue facility, she was eager to apply.
“MIPP has given me an opportunity to expand my knowledge and open a path for a new career. After I graduate, I’m hoping to put this knowledge to help more animals and open a mobile grooming business. I want to start with shelters and do it for free.”
In just 12 weeks’ time, these determined students’ lives will change forever. The majority of graduated students are now working and thriving in the dog grooming industry; some have even been quickly promoted to Head Groomers at their salons.
One of those former students is Angel Gonzalez, a 2021 MIPP graduate who is now flourishing as a professional dog groomer. Angel was formerly incarcerated and looking to start a new path. He found MIPP from a reference at the Anti-Recidivism Coalition.
Angel, MIPP Graduate
“Since graduating my life has changed dramatically. I went from being in a rehab facility, just out of jail without much, I didn’t have anything at all actually. I had to start from ground zero. And now I’m able to support my kids. I have twin boys, and I’m able to have my own place, have my own car, and live life on life’s terms.”
Since graduating from MIPP Angel has witnessed firsthand the extreme need for groomers in the industry. He recently attended a local youth job fair in Los Angeles representing MIPP in hopes of helping more people learn about careers in pet care that they may have never even realized existed. Angel is now working full-time at Jungle Pet Spa as a mobile groomer, and thriving in the field.
MIPP is in the exploratory phase with hopes to expand into other high-demand pet professions, such as veterinary care and medical training.
“The more people we can train now and place into fulfilling jobs creates happier environments and more access for communities in need of pet care. We have started with groomers and are looking ahead to elevate this program and expand our portfolio of pet professionals such as veterinarians and registered vet techs. We have started in Los Angeles and hope to grow partnerships nationally so we can transform the industry together. ” – Brett Yates, CEO, Michelson Found Animals Foundation
Looking for a rewarding career working with pets, or know someone that may be interested?
Visit www.foundanimals.org/mipp to learn more and apply.