On-the-Job Training Gives Employees a Start at Pet Hotel

Astrid Goubault photo

Kissimmee, FL – The 5 Paws Hotel & Salon might be known as a state-of-the-art pet facility, but it is the loving, caring staff that makes the dog grooming studio a great place for both people and pets. That staff includes Astrid Goubault, Damaris Santiago and Hector Cabrera, who all have disabilities, and with help from Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) they are sharing their love of animals while working full time at the Salon.

When Astrid, Damaris (right), and Hector first came to VR, the one thing they had in common was their desire to work with animals. So their VR counselors provided guidance and counseling to help them reach their career goals. Astrid and Damaris attended the Florida Institute for Animal Arts, where they completed the Pet Grooming Program. VR paid for their tuition and provided the grooming supplies needed to begin their new careers.

Through the urging of Job Coach Kirsten Barrett, with the Deaf Service Bureau of West Central Florida, Salon Owners Luis and Elba Santi decided to try VR’s On-the-Job Training (OJT) Program, and they were not disappointed.

On-the-Job Training is a VR program that gives customers the opportunity to work in an actual job site and gain real-world experience. VR pays the employee’s salary during OJT, along with reasonable training costs and any accommodations needed. It’s a win-win situation for both employers and employees.

After each one completed his/her training, the owners were so happy with their work that they hired them permanently, Hector and Damaris as kennel assistants, and Astrid as a pet groomer. “Damaris, Astrid and Hector are great assets to the pet hotel,” say Luis and Elba. “Their loving care is already making the hotel a great place to work.”

“They’re definitely hard workers and committed to their job,” says their supervisor Andrew German. Andrew says that the three make a difference to the business because of their hard work and dedication. He says, most importantly, their passion shows in their work. “When you’re dealing with animals, it’s mainly about passion,” he says. “From what I see, their passion has them on course right now.”

Hector Cabrera and Iris Ortiz photoHector’s Counselor Iris Ortiz (in photo with Hector) is thrilled with his progress and credits the manager and staff for providing him with such good training. “Hector has not only been placed in a full time job, his self-esteem has improved,” she says. “He’s a new person, more secure about himself.”

Astrid and Hector say they hope to continue on a long career. “I’m going to be a breeder and a personal groomer,” Astrid says proudly. Hector is learning to be a groomer and hopes to go back to school to become a veterinary assistant.

Iris says that Hector, as well as Astrid and Damaris, show how successful VR’s On-the-Job Training program can be. “Their determination to succeed led to fulltime employment,” she says. If your business would like to participate in the On-the-Job Training program, contact your local VR office at (800) 451-4327 or visit Rehabworks.org for a list of offices near you.

Florida’s Vocational Rehabilitation program is committed to helping people with disabilities become part of America’s workforce. Our employer-focused website, FLJobConnections.com, allows businesses to search at no charge for employees who are ready to go to work, as well as to post available jobs. VR has 111 offices across Florida, and last year helped 5,018 Floridians with significant disabilities find or keep a job.