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When pampering pooches is your profession

Jessica's love of animals leads her to an award winning career. 

With a love for animals from an early age, Jessica Chard knew she would one day have a career working with them. 

Then, while in high school, Jessica was introduced to the TAFE at School program, which allowed her to turn her passion into her profession by studying the Certificate II in Animal Studies (ACM20121).

TAFE at School allows high school students to complete a nationally-recognised qualification with TAFE Queensland before they finish school. The program saw Jessica attend classes at the Grovely Campus one day per week for a year and complete some additional studies independently.

"I loved studying with TAFE Queensland – it was awesome. I particularly loved the hands-on and practical learning with the dogs. Learning how to bathe them properly and how to read their body behaviour was exactly what I wanted," explained Jessica.

She enjoyed her studies so much that after completing her certificate II, she enrolled in the Certificate III in Animal Studies (AMC30122), where she specialised in dog grooming to become a qualified and confident dog groomer.

Then, during her work placement with a local dog groomer, the passion, professionalism and skills that Jessica saw her get offered a paying job within an hour of starting.

"Because our classroom was an industry-standard grooming studio, with the hydro baths and hydraulic grooming tables, I already knew how to clean and groom the coats of different dog breeds, which made my transition to work easy," she explained.

Also helping Jess to perfect her craft was the ability she and her classmates had to bring their dogs to campus to practice and apply the theory in a practical setting.

"It helped a lot because I love my dogs; Archie is the German Shepherd, and Indiana is the Swiss Shepherd, and they go everywhere with me. Having him there to practice my enrichment and grooming skills was great."

"And because everyone brought their dogs in, it helped me learn about different breeds in a flexible environment, and because my classmates have the same passion, we'd also catch up at the dog park to let them mingle."

Now a confident and capable dog groomer, Jessica also applies her skills to compete in professional dog shows, where she regularly places and wins awards.

"I've been competing in dog grooming shows for over a year, and I won my first show out of about 75 dogs with my boss's purebred Bedlington Terrier. Being around all the other groomers is great, but winning best all-round groomer was fantastic."

"It's my hobby for now, but I plan on competing for the rest of my life, and I hope to compete internationally one day," she said. 

Helping her perfect the skills that have seen her immerse herself in an industry she loves were her teachers, who shared the same passion and love of animals that Jess was born with.

"My teacher Alix was amazing. She has a knack for connecting with her students while linking the theory with the practical. She'd teach us the theory, mentor us when we put it into practice and then review and discuss it with us to build our skills and knowledge."

"I loved learning from her. She's so friendly and bubbly that even after graduating, I can reach out to her for a chat - she's just so supportive," she explained.

Jessica's passion is common among many people, and her advice for anyone wanting to turn their love of animals into a profession is to consider studying.

"Definitely study a course with TAFE Queensland. The facilities are amazing, the teachers are super helpful, and I now have the skills and confidence to work in an industry I love," she concluded.