Specsavers has created a BTEC qualification to develop the skills of thousands of optical assistants (OAs) working in its community practices.   

The new Pearson BTEC Level 3 certificate includes units from the existing Pearson BTEC Level 3 certificate for optometric clinical assistants and dispensing assistants. Learners choose additional units to fit their roles, providing a tailored learning experience.  

Jodie Glanville (pictured) is the first person to complete the new qualification, works at Specsavers’ Plymouth practice: “I use the knowledge I gained completing the Cert 3 every day in my job – it makes me more confident in my role and my plans for the future.”

The firm is funding up to 3,000 optical assistants to take the qualification over the next five years. Kirsteen Newman, Specsavers’ senior manager for dispensing and accredited training, says: “Our optical assistants provide an invaluable service in our practices, supporting customers, optometrists and colleagues, and this qualification will help them as their roles evolve as we serve our patients.

“We are passionate about changing lives, including those of our colleagues, by supporting their career development. We are proud to be working with Pearson to design and implement this new qualification, especially as it is not offered by any other provider.”

The training supports OAs to specialise in one of four key areas:

  • dispensing
  • clinical technician
  • contact lens assistant
  • lab technician

Learners take core units in communication, principles of light and refractive errors. They also take four units recommended for their role. They also have the option to continue their studies to gain additional qualifications.   

Ms Newman says: “In a rapidly evolving sector marked by technological advancements and evolving practices, the role of the optical assistant is diversifying. We wanted flexibility for the expanding role of optical colleagues within Specsavers.

“The qualification can also be seen as a stepping-stone towards becoming a dispensing optician, with learners encouraged to advance to the regulated Level 4 BTEC, which is recognised by ABDO.

“This is supporting the development of the wider sector as well as making sure that Specsavers is fit for the future and primed to meet the changing needs of our patients.”

Freya Thomas Monk, managing director of vocational qualifications and training at Pearson, says: “We have a decades-long history of developing our BTEC qualifications in partnership with employers to meet their current and future needs, and it was a pleasure to work with Specsavers on this exciting initiative. 

“Students with a BTEC will demonstrate the high standards of knowledge, practical skills and understanding required for further study and employment – the Specsavers graduates are no exception, and we wish them the best of luck as they continue on their career path. I look forward to meeting one of them when I go to the optician in the future.”

Find out more