Optical apprentice has sights set on career success

18 April, 2016
Specsavers' Karen Ashworth, Dame Mary Perkins and Paul Marshall
Karen Asworth, Dame Mary Perkins and Paul Marshall

A Blackburn apprentice is celebrating after graduating from Specsavers' training scheme with flying colours and embarking on a career ‘she was made to do’.

24-year-old Karen Ashworth, who lives in Accrington, marked the completion of her Optical Apprenticeship programme at a special graduation ceremony and received her certificate from Specsavers founder, Dame Mary Perkins.

The Specsavers Appreticeship scheme is the UK’s biggest government-accredited scheme which currently has more than 240 people currently enrolled.

'The best decision I ever made'
Karen, who made the decision not to go the university in order to, instead, find a career she was passionate about, is now working as a dispenser across the Lord Street Mall and Morrisons superstore Specsavers, with aspirations of training to become a fully qualified optometrist.

Karen said: ‘After leaving school, I made the decision not to go to university and work in a shop, because, while my friends went away to study I wanted to take the time to find a career that I was passionate about. It was the best decision I’ve ever made because I’ve found a career I was made for.

‘I don’t think there’s a more effective and interesting way of building your knowledge and experience than an apprenticeship and you simply never stop learning.

‘The team at Specsavers have been phenomenally supportive. As soon as I joined, they were invested in my career well beyond the apprenticeship and I absolutely love it here.

Excellent support 
‘Throughout my apprenticeship, not only did my colleagues in store do everything they could to help me balance my work with my studies, help and advice was always at hand whenever I needed it which was hugely reassuring.

‘I cannot recommend apprenticeships highly enough to anyone looking to find the career you’re passionate about and a job you love.’

Specsavers’ one-year apprenticeship is open to anyone over the age of 16 and requires no previous optical experience. Those that complete it become qualified optical assistants with the chance of full time employment at Specsavers.

The programme also opens up successful apprentices to further studying opportunities, with the potential to qualify as a dispensing optician within five years.

Fantastic opportunity
Specsavers Blackburn store retail director Mandy Gudgeon said: ‘We believe that apprenticeships are a great way to unlock the potential of young people and Karen is a fantastic example of that.

‘Our scheme benefits those who want to work their way up to qualifying as a dispensing optician and provides a way for them to embark on successful and fulfilling careers. It's also a great opportunity to give back to the people of Blackburn.'

The programme includes the completion of the Level 2 Diploma in Optics, monthly assessor visits, observations, online learning and courses. Apprentices also learn on the job, working in-store alongside eyecare professionals.

They become a key member of the store team, welcoming customers, giving them advice, booking in eye tests, carrying out pre-screening and helping the store to run as smoothly as possible.

The apprenticeships scheme has been running for just over two years and 90% of the apprentices take on full-time positions within the company.

At least 33% of those who take on a full-time position go on to further studies with Specsavers, with many training to become dispensing assistants through Specsavers’ externally-accredited Level 3 and Level 4 Certificates in Optical Dispensing. These are turn offer stepping-stones to further study to eventually qualify as a dispensing optician.

All Blackburn Lord Street store information

All Morrisons store information