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British optical sector to benefit from new qualification 

British optical sector to benefit from new qualification  

Thousands of people working in the British optical sector will benefit from a new qualification.   

Specsavers joined forces with Pearson, the world’s leading learning company, to create a new bespoke, accredited BTEC qualification aimed at developing the skills of thousands of optical assistants working in its community practices up and down the country.  

The qualification (a Pearson BTEC Level 3 Certificate) includes units from the pre-existing, regulated Pearson BTEC Level 3 Certificate for Optometric Clinical Assistant and Dispensing Assistant. Learners are then able to choose additional units that best align with their roles and responsibilities, providing a tailored learning experience.  

‘Our optical assistants provide an invaluable service in our practices, supporting customers, optometrists and colleagues, and this qualification will help them as their roles evolve as we serve our patients,’ says Kirsteen Newman, Specsavers senior manager for dispensing and accredited training.   

‘We are passionate about changing lives, including those of our colleagues, by supporting their career development. We are proud to be working with Pearson to design and implement this new qualification, especially as it is not offered by any other provider.’  

The training supports optical assistants to specialise in one of four key areas – dispensing, clinical technician, contact lens assistant or lab technician. As part of the qualification, participants have to undertake a number of core units – communication, principles of light and refractive errors.   

Depending on their chosen career progression route, they will then undertake four more units recommended for that role – and get the BTEC qualification once successfully completed. They also have the option to continue their studies to gain additional certificate qualifications.   

Ms Newman adds: ‘In a rapidly evolving sector marked by technological advancements and evolving practices, the role of the optical assistant is diversifying. We wanted flexibility for the expanding role of optical colleagues within Specsavers. Specsavers has put in place funding to secure access for this qualification for at least 3,000 of our colleagues over the next five years.  

‘The qualification can also be seen as a stepping-stone towards becoming a dispensing optician, with learners encouraged to advance to the regulated Level 4 BTEC, which is recognised by the Association of British Dispensing Opticians.  

‘This is supporting the development of the wider sector as well as making sure that Specsavers is fit for the future and primed to meet the changing needs of our patients.’

Freya Thomas Monk, Managing Director of Vocational Qualifications and Training at Pearson, says: ‘We have a decades long history of developing our BTEC qualifications in partnership with employers to meet their current and future needs, and it was a pleasure to work with Specsavers on this exciting initiative.

‘Students with a BTEC will demonstrate the high standards of knowledge, practical skills and understanding required for further study and employment – the Specsavers graduates are no exception, and we wish them the best of luck as they continue on their career path. I look forward to meeting one of them when I go to the optician in the future.’  

Go for it, says Jodie Glanville who is the first person to complete the new qualification. She works at Specsavers’ Plymouth practice and offers her insights.   

‘I use the knowledge I gained completing the Cert 3 every day in my job – it makes me more confident in my role and my plans for the future. I got lots of support from my supervisor and other colleagues, including our optometrists.’ says Jodie. ‘As to the future, I will be looking to go onto Cert 4.’  

She is also encouraging others to gain the qualification, saying: ‘No matter what you do you’re always going to have doubts in your mind, so it’s best to just jump in as you won’t regret it.’  

Specsavers Plymouth optometrist director Helen Rixson and retail director Nathan Burn add that the Cert 3 BTEC is a great training addition for colleagues, which benefits patients. ‘You could quantify it in a number of ways, anything from driving down remakes, better dispense measurements, to confidence in recommendations. Also being able to provide a clear career path for our colleagues,’ they say.  

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