Eighteen-year-old Lauren Smith who works at Specsavers in Cribbs Causeway is enjoying a rewarding career in eyecare following the completion of an apprenticeship programme.

As part of National Apprenticeship Week (Monday 14 to Sunday 20 March) Lauren celebrated her graduation from the Specsavers Optical Apprenticeship programme. More than 240 people are enrolled on the scheme, which is the UK’s biggest government-accredited programme.

While at sixth form college, Lauren decided that she wanted to work in healthcare so applied to the scheme after finishing Year 12.  She is now a training ambassador and merchandiser at the store, putting into practice everything she learnt during the programme. Lauren attended a graduation ceremony taking place at the ICC in Birmingham on Tuesday 8 March.

On the job training

‘I knew I didn’t want to go to university so when I found out about the apprenticeship scheme it was the perfect opportunity to combine some further study with on the job training,’ said Lauren.  ‘It was a really comprehensive programme and I learnt a huge amount which I am now putting into practice. I wasn’t really sure what to expect but I would definitely recommend it to anyone. I received lots of support from my colleagues and I’ve now started my Cert 3 training to get my dispensing qualification.’

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 further studying opportunities to successful apprentices, with the potential to qualify as a dispensing optician within five years.

Unlocking potential

Specavers store director, Gaurav Patel said: ‘We believe that apprenticeships are a great way to unlock the potential of young people and provide a way for them to embark on successful and fulfilling careers.

‘Our scheme benefits those who want to work their way up to qualifying as a dispensing optician. It's also a great opportunity to give back to the communities we serve.'

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.

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