Austin Dog Alliance Job Skills Training Program at Texas School for the Deaf
A pioneering vocational training program launched in Austin in 2013 – Texas School for the Deaf (TSD) students are learning job skills from some unlikely instructors – a group of specially trained therapy dogs. Funded by the Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (DARS), the program is taught in association with Austin Dog Alliance.
The 15-week class allows students to work one-on-one with both therapy dogs and untrained dogs, learning canine care, dog handling, basic obedience training, and grooming skills. In the final three weeks of the class, students put their skills to work at Austin Humane Society, caring for shelter dogs, maintaining and cleaning kennels and teaching dogs basic obedience commands.
“We are extremely thankful to the Austin Dog Alliance and DARS for partnering with TSD to provide a customized dog handling class for our students interested in careers related to animal care,” says Dr. Susan Greene, Career and Transition Department supervisor with the Texas School for the Deaf. “Since the course is presented in American Sign Language, students are able to easily and fully engage in the classroom and hands-on instruction.”
“We have a lot of students at TSD who want to work with animals,” says Preston King, Transition Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor for DARS. “But kids without experience don’t get interviews. Getting experience and a real certification will give them a boost in the job market.” (According to the non-profit Dallas Hearing Foundation, 42% of deaf adults aged 18-44 are unemployed).
Austin Dog Alliance hopes to improve the odds for TSD students by teaching skills that can help them pursue careers in animal-related fields. “We are probably the only organization in the nation offering this type of learning,” says Carolyn Honish, Austin Dog Alliance program coordinator and a certified instructor for the deaf, “and the students are absolutely loving the course. We hope that, as more people become aware that this training is available, we can improve the career opportunities for more young adults.”