By Steve Appelbaum, ABC President & CEO
Wow, what a difference a few months makes. My last column was about wrapping up last year and our various plans for 2020. Then came the bolt out of the blue that surprised almost everyone: the COVID-19 virus.
As all of you know, ABC offers our programs all across North America. We manage this from our corporate headquarters in Santa Clarita, California. For those of you not familiar with the area, Santa Clarita is in northern Los Angeles County. It is here that our program managers, externship coordinators, admissions personnel, shipping, marketing, compliance and editorial staff, and management work. A little under 100 staff in all. With almost no exceptions up until mid-March 2020 no one worked remotely. When it became obvious that this new coronavirus would likely affect a great many more people before anyone got a handle on it, we made a decision to allow most everyone to work from home. We based this on several factors.
At any given time, we have 2,000+ students in our various programs; that is a lot of people counting on assistance from program managers and externship coordinators. Additionally, more than 20,000 people a month inquire about our courses. With this and more in mind, we spent two weeks in March working to make it possible for ABC employees to work from home. I say “we,” but in truth, after I gave the directive I needed to get out of the way and let my teams make this happen. While there certainly were some challenges, we were successful. This all means that nearly 100 people kept their jobs and thousands of students were—and are—able to continue to work toward achieving their dream career.
After six months, no one still knows what the full impact of the COVID-19 virus will be. Of ABC’s five programs, four of them consist of 81 percent home study and 19 percent externships; as such, the vast majority of students can continue their programs from the safety of their homes. As of this writing, our externship coordinators are now scheduling externships; subject to social-distancing requirements and each location’s restrictions.
Because those of us in the pet industry are optimistic at a core level, we are forging ahead with our Zookeeper Assistant Program (ZAP). Of course, this coronavirus has wreaked havoc with all our dates, so tasks that were supposed to be done by the end of summer will more likely be completed in late fall or early winter. I will keep everyone posted.
Stay safe and healthy!