Happy Paws Happy Hearts (HPHH) has launched its employment pathway program Explore in the Hunter Valley, with the help of the mobile classroom parked at Hunter Valley Animal Facility and Rehoming Centre NSW (HVAFARC).
The custom-built mobile classroom was made possible thanks to a grant funding of $75,000 by Newcastle Permanent Charitable Foundation.
According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, working age (aged 15 to 64) people with disabilities are more than twice as likely to be unemployed than those without a disability.
In response, HPHH developed and launched Explore for participants ready to take the next steps into volunteering, work, or further study in the animal care industry and beyond.
With animals at the heart of the unique program, participants will learn employment skills and gain confidence to enter the next phase of their lives.
Newcastle Permanent Charitable Foundation Chair, Jennifer Leslie says Explore is a much-needed support program for at-risk youth in the Hunter.
“The Foundation is focused on supporting young people and given 70 per cent of Happy Paws Happy Hearts participants are indeed young people, who may have been disengaged from education and employment opportunities, this partnership offers them a safe and educational environment in which they can thrive,” Jennifer said.
“Through the six-month Explore program, Happy Paws Happy Hearts secures placement and study options for each participant, aligning with their individual goals, capability, and support needs.
“This allows the participants to put their knowledge into practice, gain real-world experience they can add to their resumes, and start building connections in their specific field.”
Since launching Explore in the Hunter Valley, HPHH has supported four participants on their employment journey.
Steph, a participant of Explore, graduated early after securing employment in the animal care industry.
Happy Paws Happy Hearts Team Leader, Nina Waterton said three participants currently attend the program twice weekly.
“I’m so proud of Steph for securing her dream job in the animal care industry,” Nina said.
“I’m also delighted to continue working with our three participants: Dylan, Jax and Gabby every week.
“It is great to see how much they have grown and flourished in such a short time. They are genuinely such a wonderful group of people.
“Seeing the real impact Explore has on their lives makes going to work so enjoyable.
“With some of our participants, it’s like night and day; watching them gain confidence and achieve their goals is truly awesome.
I’m so excited to be able to continue supporting more participants in their return-to-life journeys and to keep spreading the puppy love along the way.”
Happy Paws Happy Hearts Chief Commercial Officer, Kellie Ireland explained that the program, currently running in Wacol and Toowoomba in Queensland, figures reveal two-thirds (66 per cent) of Explore alumni have gone on to find employment or pursue further study opportunities.
“We are beyond excited to launch our wonderful Explore program in the Hunter Valley,” Kellie said.
“The program is specifically designed for participants who made their way through our programs that are ready for their next challenge, whether that be employment in the animal care industry, further study, or other return-to-life pathways.
“Thanks to the generous grant funding by Newcastle Permanent Charitable Foundation, we have been able to roll out our mobile classroom, to teach this truly incredible program to local vulnerable youth.
“We can equip our participants with knowledge and skills to thrive in their desired careers, hand in hand with the confidence to know they are valuable and capable of doing so.”
IMAGE | Happy Paws Happy Hearts prepares vulnerable youth for employment pathways with the help of their ‘paw-some’ assistants.