The need for a competent and well-recognised veterinary workforce
Veterinarians, veterinary paraprofessionals (VPPs) and in some cases community animal health workers (CAHWs) are at the forefront of animal disease surveillance, prevention and control. The provision of high-quality education and training is key to equipping veterinary personnel with the necessary knowledge and skills. In addition, their respective responsibilities need to be clearly defined to ensure that they can best perform their roles where they are needed.
The key stakeholders of the veterinary workforce:
- Veterinarian: A professional with appropriate education, registered or licensed by the relevant Veterinary Statutory Body of a country to practice veterinary medicine/science in that country. Veterinarians can work in the field, in farms, clinics, laboratories and in aquaculture. They can also control animal movements at borders or conduct inspections in slaughterhouses to ensure food safety and animal welfare.
- Veterinary paraprofessional (VPP): A person who is authorised by the Veterinary Statutory Body to carry out certain designated tasks in a territory, and delegated to them under the responsibility and direction of a veterinarian. The tasks for each category of VPP should be defined by the Veterinary Statutory Body depending on qualifications and training, and in accordance with need. VPPs support a wide range of animal health, veterinary public health and even laboratory activities within Veterinary Services. They may vaccinate animals, share good practices with farmers and fishers, participate in meat inspection or alert veterinary authorities to the risk of disease outbreaks. View the definition of the Terrestrial Code for Animal Health.
- Community animal health worker (CAHW): A person selected from or by their own community and provided with short, initial, or recurring vocational training to perform very basic animal health and animal husbandry-related services in line with national animal welfare standards. A CAHW is expected to be accountable to a VPP, a veterinarian, or an appropriate official. CAHWs can, for example, be livestock farmers, who are able to provide essential basic animal health care services to other farmers in remote or underserved areas, where there are no veterinarians nor VPPs. They can also play an important role in a range of sanitary tasks such as disease reporting.
WOAH helps Members identify existing gaps in their veterinary workforce and provides national Veterinary Services with a wide range of tools and services to address them and strengthen the workforce.
Creating a supportive environment for the veterinary workforce
The Workforce Development Programme (WFD) helps Members assess their veterinary workforce needs and create an enabling environment for a workforce that is fit-for-purpose to meet current and future challenges. In short, this means having the right people, with the right skills in the right place, at the right time and at the right cost. The programme enhances the capacity of the veterinary workforce to effectively deliver key animal health services such as disease reporting or disease control and food safety. It also helps improve access to last mile delivery of clinical and preventive services to animal keepers, particularly in underserved areas and populations. It is built on three pillars:
Workforce assessment and planning
To support Members in analysing the existing needs of their veterinary workforce, identifying gaps and solutions and using foresight to prepare for the future.
Education and training
To design appropriate curricula which support the acquisition of relevant skills and competencies and to provide Veterinary Services stakeholders with continuing education opportunities through a dedicated training system.
Workforce assessment and planning
WOAH proposes various activities to support countries to analyse their needs, develop their action plans and identify PVS Pathway support that is most relevant to their priorities.
National workshops on workforce development
Members can request to participate in these workshops as part of the PVS Pathway, ideally following a PVS Evaluation mission. These events bring together a range of national stakeholders involved in education, training, regulation and deployment of veterinary personnel. They aim to analyse a country’s situation in terms of workforce education and legislation, identify strengths and gaps and design tailored action plans for workforce planning and development.
As a next step following the workshops, countries can request further PVS Pathway activities to support the implementation of their action plans in specific areas. Below are some examples:
A national workshop which introduced initiatives for systemically assessing and planning the veterinary workforce needs of the country.
The project provided support to develop the VPP workforce to ensure that they are well-equipped to provide quality veterinary services to smallholder farmers.
In 2022, WOAH facilitated an awareness-raising workshop to discuss veterinary workforce development with regard to veterinary paraprofessionals.
A workshop which discussed recommendations on laying the ground for the development of an enabling environment for VPPs in the country.
Sub-regional and regional awareness raising workshops on the veterinary workforce development and VPPs
These activities are offered independently of the PVS Pathway. They aim to raise awareness of the need for a healthy and resilient veterinary workforce, focusing on the regional context and the critical role of VPPs. They can be a first step before a country starts to develop its own roadmap and engages with specific activities proposed under the PVS Pathway.
These activities include different types of workshops as well as Legislation webinars which present all the tools and services available to countries. Examples: Africa, Asia Pacific, Central Asia and the Caucasus.
Providing adequate education and training
A healthy and resilient veterinary workforce includes personnel with appropriate training and competencies distributed across the territory and able to perform the essential functions of Veterinary Services.
WOAH makes available a range of tools to ensure that the veterinary workforce is equipped with the necessary competencies during their studies and continuing education efforts and can aspire to realistic employment opportunities.
In many countries, Veterinary Education Establishments (VEEs) do not adequately prepare their veterinary graduates to have the necessary competencies at graduation to carry out their work successfully. WOAH has developed a series of guidelines to help its Members bridge gaps in veterinary education.
Veterinary Education Establishment Twinning Programme
The VEE Twinning Programme provides an opportunity for a ‘beneficiary’ VEE wishing to improve its performance, to link with a ‘parent’ VEE in a formal partnership to address specific, agreed objectives for curriculum development and other aspects of educational capacity building, with support from WOAH. Read the guide to Veterinary Education Twinning Projects.
VEE twinning between the University of Gondar (Ethiopia) and the Ohio State University (USA)
The project generated a significant level of interest, owing to the participation of high-level government representatives and stakeholders. Given that the veterinary curriculum is developed by a national centralised body, the twinning partners have engaged with and encouraged the involvement of major stakeholders in project activities to drive change at country level. This has resulted in the veterinary curricula developed by the project being proposed as the national model. It also led to an open-access online tool which VEEs can use to assess their curricula alignment with WOAH standards.
Veterinary Paraprofessional Education
While most people are familiar with the work of veterinarians, fewer may be aware of the vaccinators, laboratory workers or meat inspectors who comprise the veterinary paraprofessional workforce in many countries. In rural areas which may lack veterinarians, veterinary paraprofessionals are essential to maintain animal health, inform populations on best practices and detect animal diseases that could lead to epidemics.
Recognising the vital importance of qualified VPPs, WOAH proposes a range of activities to support the development of their capacities.
These activities are based on the competency and curricula guidelines which cover three different categories of VPPs, namely animal health, veterinary public health and laboratory diagnosis.
Together, these guidelines can be used to:
- Improve Member recognition and definition of qualified VPPs
- Assess and address the curriculum needs of a given country
- Develop fit-for-purpose curricula
- Develop relevant job descriptions for VPPs
- Self-assess individual needs based on current competencies and plans for career development
Veterinary curriculum support missions
These missions help Members assess the performance of VPP education and work on further improvements. A dedicated team of experts works with national counterparts to review and analyse existing educational infrastructures and curricula to identify gaps and weaknesses and propose improvements. They include two potential stages:
- Stage 1: Curriculum analysis mission
- Stage 2: Curriculum development mission
Stage 1: Curriculum analysis mission
The 1-2 week in-country missions include field visits and interviews with VPP training institutions, educators and VPPs themselves, after several pre-mission online meetings. These activities are combined with a workshop which bring together VPP education stakeholders, that include Veterinary Services, line ministries and agencies responsible for technical and vocational training, other stakeholders such as agencies responsible for National Occupational Standards, and the Veterinary Statutory Body.
During 4-5 days, the participants are trained on WOAH guidelines and review in-depth their national curricula to assess the alignment with WOAH guidelines. Final recommendations are then developed by the experts and participants for upgrading the curricula. An example of a pilot VPP curricula analysis mission in Georgia is described here.
Stage 2: Curriculum development mission
As a second step, countries can request a Curriculum development mission, which includes face-to-face meetings between WOAH experts and educators responsible for curriculum review. The team works together to develop new and improved curricula that are aligned with the required competencies of veterinary paraprofessionals.
Improving veterinary governance
Depending on available resources and local conditions, the composition of the veterinary workforce may vary considerably between countries. Regardless of the number of veterinarians, veterinary paraprofessionals, and others, it is essential that the qualifications, training and prerogatives of each category are clearly defined and enforced along with a code of ethical conduct that ensures both competency and professionalism. These assurances can be achieved through the adoption of well drafted legislation around the issue of veterinary practice.
Veterinary practice legislation, is a key element in the enabling environment for an effective veterinary workforce
The purpose of veterinary practice legislation is to provide a basis for regulating veterinarians and veterinary paraprofessionals in the interests of the public. It aims to:
- Establish the Veterinary Statutory Body (VSB) as the competent authority for regulating veterinarians and veterinary paraprofessionals.
- Provide for the definition of the officially recognised categories of veterinarians and veterinary paraprofessionals.
- Describe the general structure and system of regulation of veterinarians and veterinary paraprofessionals by the veterinary statutory body.
Through the WOAH Veterinary Legislation Support Programme (VLSP), countries may review their existing legislation to identify gaps during a Veterinary Legislation Identification Mission and can get support on developing new veterinary practice legislation through a Veterinary Legislation Agreement.
Competent Veterinary Statutory Bodies, core actors in the good governance of Veterinary Services
The role of Veterinary Statutory Bodies (VSBs) is to provide regulatory oversight of the quality and competence of the veterinary workforce in a given country. The VSB ensures that only authorised professionals deliver veterinary or animal health services, by licensing and registering veterinarians and VPPs. They are also responsible for ensuring the quality of initial and continuing education and professional conduct for those registered. A competent VSB must be independent from any political or commercial interests.
The VSB Twinning Programme has been established to create the opportunity for a ‘beneficiary’ VSB wishing to improve its performance, to link with a ‘parent’ VSB in a formal partnership to address specific, agreed upon targets for improvement. The Twinning Programme is currently under review and may be replaced or supplemented in the future with alternative approaches for improving the performance of VSB.
Legislative reviews to determine the legal basis for regulating VPPs in Africa including the role of VSBs in that process are available at the following links: Southern Africa Results, Eastern Africa Results , West, North and Central Africa results (document available in French).
How can Members benefit from the workforce development programme?
Participation is voluntary. Any Member who has completed a PVS Evaluation mission can request a Targeted Support mission. WOAH recommends that the requested mission be part of clear efforts for the country to address the specified area of work, and suggests the following steps:
Member reviews results of PVS Evaluation/Follow-up report, including Critical Competencies I-1,
I-2, I-3, and other national initiatives and criteria for improving veterinary and VPP education.
The national Delegate sends an official request to WOAH for the relevant Targeted Support activity.
WOAH and the Member identify availability of funding.
If necessary, WOAH requests a meeting with the Delegate to review priorities and stakeholders.
Based on the results of the above steps, WOAH proposes Targeted Support with dedicated independent experts and specific dates.
In addition to the targeted support we offer, Members, and any member of the public, can benefit from the contents of our online training portal offers free resources, activities and discussions to animal health stakeholders worldwide. Over 25 new modules are currently under development, covering areas such as emergency management, wildlife trade and surveillance, and leadership in Veterinary Services.
It is worth noting that several activities within the PVS Pathway can contribute to workforce development. Countries can benefit from in-depth support in different areas through PVS Evaluation and Gap Analysis missions as well as through the Veterinary Legislation support programme.