'I'm a nanny, can I become a dog handler? What's the best way into event management?'

Unleash your potential

Q. I am 22, have worked in nurseries and am currently a nanny. I would like to change my career completely and work with sniffer dogs, but I don't know where to start.

A. The good news is that working with children is, according to National Association of Security Dog Users (Nasdu) trainer Nigel Edwards, a good basis for dog handling, requiring the same patience and ability to keep cool. The bad news is that working with sniffer dogs is hard and very expensive to get into, and with no prior experience in drug or explosive search work doors are likely to be closed to you. Essentially, to become a dog handler in the police or army you need first to be working in one of those organisations. Dog handling in any sphere is competitive and the pay is not high. But if you are really enthusiastic, it's worth doing simple things first.

Getting hands-on experience, for example. If you don't already have a dog, talk to a dog club about acquiring the right breed.

Look at other job options. Edwards points out that local agricultural colleges run small-animal courses, enabling you to think about beginning work in basic kenneling, or becoming a dog warden. You can work as a dog handler in a private security firm, though security guards, including handlers, now need a Security Industry Authority (SIA) licence.

This means acquiring a nationally recognised qualification (see www.the-sia.org.uk) before you apply to Nasdu for specialist security dog training (most trainers will also teach you to the level required for a basic dog handling certificate). The best idea might be to discuss what sort of work you think would suit you with a Nasdu trainer - they are listed on www.nasdu.co.uk.

Learning by degrees

Q. My daughter is completing her A-levels in French, Spanish and business studies. She is considering a career in event management but is not convinced she needs to go to university. Is it possible to get in at the "ground floor" in this type of job?

A. This is a growing industry and the number of people being recruited is vast - but the good news is there are more positions than people. Anyone who is bright and enthusiastic should be able to get in on the ground floor, and not having a degree is no barrier to entry.

If your daughter does go in after leaving the sixth form, however, she will probably be starting at a sales level and proving her worth as she works her way up - even for junior marketing positions employers may be asking for 18 months' experience.

A lot will depend on whether she wants to get pitched into the world of work, on finances, and on how you both rate a degree as of value in itself as well as something worthwhile vocationally. Larger companies in this area do now run graduate trainee schemes which are a good route to some top jobs.

Work experience at any stage (organising charity events, for example) is useful. If your daughter wants to explore the courses on offer, why not check out the options with the Events Industry Alliance, the marketing arm of the events industry, ( www.eventsindustryalliance.com). They're in touch with what employers want from graduates and can also describe the many areas this sort of job covers. They recommend continuing with languages, for example - many bigger firms do a lot of work abroad. If your daughter could pursue her Spanish or French with an events management course this could stand her in good stead.

Please send your queries to Caroline Haydon at 'The Independent', Education Desk, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS; fax 020-7005 2143; or e-mail to chaydon @blueyonder.co.uk

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