A scheme to help jobseekers in Wythenshawe was right on the nose for animal-lover Laura Doyle and led to her dream career - training sniffer dogs.
Laura, 21, from Peel Estate in Wythenshawe, is now training dogs for a specialist security company in Chester - and has even worked on contracts to supply the canny canines for police work in America.
Since she was a toddler Laura had wanted to work with dogs had always been very clear about her vocation with man's best friend.
She went on to study animal behaviour at the University of Chester, but after finishing her studies she had a fruitless year of endless applications and had started to lose faith in ever being able to achieve her dream.
Laura says: "My confidence had really started to ebb - it's soul destroying to keep filling in application forms and then not even hear back from the company involved."
At this point she heard about the Real Opportunities scheme running in Wythenshawe. This is a proactive scheme, launched in October last year, led by Manchester City Council with seven partner organisations to help residents into jobs or training at a time of major reform of the out of work benefit system.
That partnership includes Parkway Green Housing Trust, Willow Park Housing Trust, Greater Manchester Police, The Manchester College, Next Step, NHS - South Manchester Clinical Commissioning Group, Jobcentre Plus and other voluntary organisations.
The concept is simple and direct: any employee from the partnership who meets a Wythenshawe resident needing help to find work, can fill in a brief referral form to bring the right support quickly.
That form is then sent in confidence to a dedicated part of the Wythenshawe Regeneration at Manchester City Council, where an initial, face-to-face appointment will be made - ideally within 10 days.
From there an individual action plan is created using the services of relevant training or advice agencies. A range of courses are on offer from computer skills to literacy classes or interview and CV workshops. Residents are also told of job opportunities. And, crucially, for the people who make the initial referrals, there will be feedback, subject to residents' permission, which will outline positive results.
Through Real Opportunities Laura was entered into a confidence-building project run at the Willow Park Housing Trust offices in Wythenshawe.
She says: "Initially it felt daunting to be on a scheme with complete strangers - but that also helped with my confidence as I got to know new people. The course was brilliant - we used role-play and quizzes to prepare ourselves for interviews and realise what impact you make in the first few seconds of any interview situation. It was all about how to sell yourself and make the most of any opportunities. It made you analyse how you could do things different and instead of looking inwards it made you look outwards.
"My confidence just got better and better. We had a lot of drama projects - including performing a play at Benchill Primary School - where the theme was all about valuing older people. By the end of the play the kids were really rooting for the old people."
The experience boosted Laura to the point that she felt ready to tackle the jobs market with renewed vigour and a different, more assertive approach.
"I was a lot more focused," says Laura. "I'm certain that the course helped me get the job I have now - which is the job of my dreams."
Laura now trains sniffer dogs for security organisation Acrosec in Chester. Through various play and behaviour techniques she works typically with spaniels and Labradors to turn them into elite, working dogs for security work for police, airports and other contracts, some of which are overseas.
"I use a lot of reward techniques with the dogs," she says. "It's important to keep the dogs motivated so they associate the end-goal with a game. When dogs are sniffing suitcases at airports, for example, you need to be able to sustain their interest so that the whole process is associated with a pattern and a reward."
At any one time Acrosec can have around 13 dogs who are being trained or are ready to work. The company recently had a contract involving six dogs going to Florida to work with American police. The dogs were trained to the point where they are described as 'green dogs' - in other words they are primed and trained to associate whatever their task is with ball-play or another prop.
Life is so full for Laura now, that there's only room for one man in her life. He's Henry - an 11-month- old English springer spaniel whom she is currently training to sniff out bed bugs for the hotel industry as well as future security work.
"I feel so lucky," she says. Getting on the course changed my life by helping me get this work. For me this isn't a job - it's something I love doing and have wanted to do all my life."
Councillor Sue Murphy, Deputy Leader with responsibility for employment and skills at Manchester City Council, said: "Congratulations to Laura, what a great outcome for both her the Real Opportunities programme. This scheme is about standing shoulder to shoulder as a united team in Wythenshawe to help the whole community gain vocational skills, experience and jobs."
Real Opportunities launched in October and to date 322 referrals have been made through the scheme and 30 people have gained jobs or gone on to training programmes.