Apprentice’s seal of approval at safari park

Wed, March 6th, 2019

An animal-loving apprentice has secured his dream job at Knowsley Safari...

An animal-loving apprentice has secured his dream job at Knowsley Safari working with sea lions, bats and birds of prey after taking part in a pioneering back-to-work training programme.

Arron Toner, 24 and a father-of-three, works full-time as a steward at the safari park after completing GiveGetGo, a three-stage employment volunteering and training programme delivered by Transform Lives Company and backed by One Ark, an investment charity and part of the Knowsley-based First Ark Group.

First Ark Group works with the Liverpool-based social enterprise, Transform Lives, which aims to raise employment levels across Merseyside. During 2018 it helped 100 former long-term unemployed people engage in training or access full-time work. GiveGetGo aims to support 250 local people into employment, apprenticeships or further education this year.

GiveGetGo offers participants the chance to feel supported, gain confidence and get back into the routine of work. It works with employers including Knowsley Safari, Speke Hall, University of Liverpool, Everton in the Community and Bluecoat Chambers. It offers job seekers a chance to meet employers through workshops, holds mock interviews and arranges volunteering placements.

Arron, who rents his home from Knowsley Housing Trust, part of the First Ark Group, said:

“GiveGetGo changed my life, Knowsley Safari was so impressed with my work that I’m now a full-time steward at the park and I couldn’t be happier. The highlight of my day is working with Arthur, the 20 stone sea lion, whose got such a cheeky personality! Sea lions are surprisingly greedy and eat around 20lbs of fish a day. My role involves helping to feed the animals throughout the day, leading tours around our bat caves and talking to customers about the different birds of prey we have.

“I’d been unemployed for seven months and my confidence had hit rock bottom. I’d always wanted to work with animals but didn’t know where or how to get started. After reading Knowsley Housing Trust’s magazine, I spotted an article about GiveGetGo and realised I could get on-the-job work experience with Knowsley Safari.

“I applied for the programme, was accepted and have been supported throughout the whole process with practice interviews, advice and took part in horticultural and educational programmes. Through this training I developed my employment skills and my confidence levels soared.”

Leann Hearne, Group Chief Executive of First Ark Group, said:

“After spending time with Arron and Arthur, the sea lion, it’s fantastic to see the skills he’s developed in working with the animals through volunteering and then as an apprentice at Knowsley Safari. This is such a unique opportunity for someone whose always had a yearning to work with animals and one we’re glad we could support.

“Our schedule of social investment programmes has been designed to develop resilient communities, generate opportunities and inspire long-term unemployed people to make changes to their lives.”

Lauren Bailey-Rhodes, Operations Director at Transform Lives Company, said:

“We launched the GiveGetGo programme in 2015 giving people the opportunity to gain experience through volunteering at prestigious organisations in the city. We know volunteering builds skills, improves confidence and grows connections between jobseekers and employers. Arron, like many of our participants just needed the opportunity to show what he was capable of. We’re keen to work with more employers like Knowsley Safari, who give their time to mentor and train our participants, so we can help more people in Liverpool.”

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