Around 550 of the estimated 700 second-year optometry students across the UK will be learning the ropes through a four to six week placement in a Specsavers practice this summer.

Cardiff University student Kamila Owsianik, 20, has just started her placement with Specsavers in Tiverton. She says:

‘I was really happy to get the offer of a student placement with Specsavers. I met Sam (Corrie) from the Tiverton and Taunton stores at the assessment centre in Cardiff and was incredibly impressed with her enthusiasm as well as with how the placement works.

‘The programme is so well organised and structured. I get a workbook and USB stick which provides a huge amount of information. The workbook allows me to keep detailed notes of what I have learned and I can see myself referring to it throughout the rest of my studies and beyond.

‘Everyone in the store is so committed to my development. I’m supervised by optometrist Jenny Shepherd, and I’m encouraged to get involved whenever there is an interesting case to see in the test room. On my first day alone, I was able to observe the case of a young boy who had lost half his visual field in one eye, and had to be referred to hospital.

‘I’m also getting great experience on the shop floor and have carried out several dispenses under supervision.’

Of the seven optometrists who work across the Taunton and Tiverton practices, five of them were originally summer placement students.

Ideal for talented professionals

Sam Corrie, HR regional manager for the practices, says, ‘It is not easy to recruit optoms in this part of the world, and the summer placement and pre-reg schemes are ideal for attracting talented professionals to come and work with us. The summer placement is like an extended interview on both sides – we get to know the student, and the student gets to know the team and to experience our culture and our commitment to development.

‘Finding a place to live during the placement can also be a challenge for students when they are away from home, and we are very grateful for the financial and practical support provided by Specsavers’ graduate team.’

This is the fifth year of the Specsavers summer placement scheme. Louise Iredale, Head of Graduate Recruitment and Development, says, ‘The scheme has an excellent reputation among university students. From the feedback we get, it’s not just that it is well-structured, it is also because of the personal nature of the relationship between the student and the store team. Students tell us that they feel they are treated as individuals – and this makes a real difference to them.‘The selected students all attend a two-hour development session at their university before they start and we focus on team development and communication skills to give them the best possible start to their placement and to their career in optometry as a whole.’

So does Kamila see herself coming back to Specsavers?

She says, ‘I’m very keen to go on to do my pre-reg and develop my career with Specsavers – I have definitely put all my eggs in that basket!’

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