The team at Specsavers Northampton celebrated National Apprenticeship Week (3-9 February) with former optical assistant apprentice, Natalie Christmas, 23.

Natalie's story
Natalie applied for her apprenticeship at Specsavers in 2017 after a really difficult year. She explained: ‘I was working in my family’s gymnastics club but we had to close the business due to the loss of my father. I went on to work in our local supermarket but I missed the feeling that I was making a difference to people and I wanted to find a job where I could grow and progress.

‘I’d always thought optics would require a direct route from university, so I was surprised and interested when I saw the apprenticeship advert. My A-levels in English literature and psychology were more than enough to qualify me to start the course, which looks for grades in English and Maths at GCSE.’

The course can lead to further qualifications to become a dispensing optician, an in-store trainer, a lab technician or even an optometrist. ‘I found it gave me confidence and life-skills as well as a wealth of clinical knowledge,’ she said.

Future aspirations
Natalie is now employed full-time at Specsavers and thinking about her next steps. She hopes in future to become an apprentice adviser to help other apprentices in the business. ‘There were many things that I enjoyed about my time as an apprentice,’ she said. ‘I loved the different areas of optics, especially problem-solving issues with patients’ glasses, learning how to identify which lens is most beneficial to the patient, the different tasks of the pre-screening machines and the more technical side of dispensing in the lab.

‘However, I think the best part is the support that follows you through the apprenticeship and beyond. When I started at Specsavers, it had only been a few months since the loss of my father and I truly believe that if it wasn’t for my time on the apprenticeship and the support from my assessor, Kelly Smith, and the team I would not be where I am today.

‘Becoming an optical retail apprentice was one of the best decisions of my life and I would not hesitate to recommend the programme to anyone with an interest in optics and helping people.’

A word from the store director
Store director, Jude Edwards, said: ‘Natalie has done so well in her apprenticeship. Having the qualification can open up a variety of career routes and our team is supported to reach their potential in their chosen field. We’re very proud of our whole team culture of learning, helping us all to be the best we can for our customers.’

Apprenticeships at Specsavers are open to people of any age and successful applicants earn a salary while learning.

Start of a rewarding career
Louise Powell, head of apprenticeships at Specsavers, said: ‘Specsavers apprenticeship programs are a fantastic way to begin or develop a rewarding and successful career. This is demonstrated by the fact that 94% of our optical assistant apprentices go on to take on a full-time job at Specsavers, 92% say their career prospects have improved and 73% of apprentices who take a role in store then go on to take clinical or management qualifications. Not only that, but our training has been viewed as best in the sector by Ofsted. It is an exciting time to be part of the team. As long as you’re a hard worker, punctual and ambitious you will do well at Specsavers and there are plenty of opportunities to continue with your development.’

National Apprenticeship Week is an annual week-long celebration of apprenticeships across England and is a time to recognise and applaud apprenticeship success stories. To explore apprentice opportunities at Specsavers, visit the Specsavers recruitment web pages or speak to a member of the recruitment team on 01566 771 888.

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