February 6 – 12th 2023 marks the start of the 16th annual week-long celebration of National Apprenticeship Week, which aims to raise awareness of the training and opportunities available to anyone from the age of 16 – including recent school or college leavers who may be looking for a new challenge.
The theme for 2023 is ‘Skills for Life’ with a focus on how the apprenticeship programme helps equip the individual with skills and knowledge to pursue a rewarding and fulfilling career.
Within Specsavers, this nationally recognised Traineeship and Apprenticeship Programme provides training in optometry, audiology, customer service, office support and laboratory technician, and offers a structured programme over an average 15-month timeframe. There is also a degree level apprenticeship which takes around three to four years to complete.
Advocates of the National Apprenticeship Scheme, Specsavers Hemel Hempstead currently employ nine apprentices in store who work across the optical, lab and audiology areas of the business. Indeed one such 6th Form apprentice recruited from nearby Laureate Academy Sixth Form, Harry Hutchings, was delighted to be accepted onto the Specsavers Hemel Hempstead Optical Apprenticeship Programme in October 2021, only two months after completing his A Levels.
When discussing why he was attracted to working at Specsavers, and the apprenticeship training, Harry said; ‘I wanted to work with members of the public and in a healthcare environment, plus Specsavers is a highly respected brand. The training offers a great balance for me, as I am learning about eye health whilst assisting the stores customers and carrying out pre-sight tests. I’m really enjoying the mix of study and on the job training.’
The Apprenticeship team support the apprentices through virtual and face to face coaching sessions to identify gaps in knowledge and skills to then coach and train them alongside the store teams to be the best they can be. They are industry experts, most of whom have worked in store, so understand Specsavers Optics and Audiology inside out. The team are on hand to help support with all areas, including apprentices’ wellbeing, safety and getting them ready for their final assessment.
After thirteen months applying himself to the Apprenticeship Programme, Harry was delighted to pass the Optical Assistant Level 2 training in November 2022, with flying colours, as he gained a distinction. Commenting on his achievement Harry said; ‘I’m delighted that all my study and hard work has paid off and that I am now qualified as an Optical Assistant. This means I have a career path that I can pursue, and one which really motivates me, especially the pre-screen patient tests I am responsible for, can make a difference to people on a daily basis.’
When commenting on his apprenticeship experience and the advice he would give to other trainees, Harry said; ‘Always ask for help when you need it, and empathise with the patients at a personal level, as this makes the experience more unique for them when in-store. The team at Hemel Hempstead are amazing and I love working with them, plus making a difference to people here in my home town is very rewarding.’
Specsavers Hemel Hempstead Ash Patel, Ophthalmic Director said; ‘Harry joined the team when he was just 18 years old. Over the last thirteen months he has worked really hard, proving to be a valuable member of the team. Harry is a great example of a 6th Form school leaver being able to benefit from an apprenticeship scheme that is offering him invaluable skills and training.’
Clinical Director Shane Abbas Bhimani continued; ‘As a store we are proud to be able to offer school leavers a career opportunity with Specsavers, and currently we have nine in-store who are on the programme.’
Specsavers Hemel Hempstead, General Manager, Louise England said; ‘We were really interested in the Specsavers Traineeships when they were piloted, consequently we were one of the first stores to get on board. What I really like about the scheme is the fact the provider looks locally for potential candidates and works with them, prior to introducing them to us.
We see the Traineeship as an opportunity for the trainee to get to know us, and understand how Specsavers operates, whilst learning valuable skills including customer service, telephone skills and generally building their confidence and overall employability skills. It’s a great career entry point, as it will suit those candidates who might not want to commit to an Apprenticeship.’
Ms England continued; ‘The calibre of applicants onto our training programmes has been brilliant! We have been so lucky with our Trainees and Apprentices including Harry who has settled in really well. He has a great can-do attitude and is very keen to learn every aspect of the Optical Apprenticeship. Harry is an asset to Specsavers Hemel Hempstead.
We don't just recruit Trainees, we also recruit directly into Apprenticeships, we love both the Traineeship and Apprenticeship programmes and will continue to look for our future talent through these routes.’
Dena Wyatt, Head of Apprenticeships at Specsavers, said; ‘I love National Apprenticeship Week! A whole week dedicated to showcasing, not only the success of Apprenticeships in Specsavers but also raising awareness of the opportunities in the Optics Industry. Many of our apprentices wouldn’t have been aware of this exciting industry without the Apprenticeship – it’s a stepping stone into a career, the opportunities are endless!
Over 600 apprentices started on their Apprenticeship learning journey with us last year. Over 90% of apprentices stay with Specsavers and continue on their development path to fulfil their potential! We’re looking forward to another great year, especially with the launch of the new Level 3 Optical Assistant Apprenticeship.’
Most of the apprenticeships last 15-18 months depending on the qualification. Applicants must have a minimum of a grade C or equivalent in Maths to be considered for the level 3 Apprenticeships. To find out more about the apprenticeship scheme and the 200+ opportunities available, please visit the Specsavers website.
You can discuss any eye or hear care queries with the team at Specsavers Hemel Hempstead on 01442 212 141 or you can book an appointment online.