This summer, graduating optometry students will close the books but open up a new chapter – their first job. But where in the UK they take up their pre-reg placements and first jobs as newly qualified optometrists could make a great deal of difference, an idea backed up in new research by recruitment company Prospect Health.
The company contrasted the numbers of optometry and dispensing optician students around the UK with regional optical job opportunities between July and September 2015.
It found that the south east, north east and south west had the highest ratio of jobs to student populations. In the south east, there were almost seven jobs per student, almost five in the north east and exactly three in the south west.
This work trend also held for these regions when the number of vacancies is compared to the total number of optical professionals.
In comparison, Northern Ireland as well as the region of Yorkshire and Humber had the fewest jobs per student, about half a job for each over the three-month time period. These regions also had the lowest numbers of jobs per optical professional.
London had high numbers of jobs, but also a dense concentration of optometry and dispensing optician students and professionals, according to the data.
Prospect Health optometry and audiology director, David Thomas, told OT that a young optometrist would notice a great deal of difference seeking a job in London compared to a role in the south east, for example.
He explained that many optometry students decide to settle where they grew up or studied and are, understandably, not very open to giving up their support networks of family and friends.
“Students who are [prepared to move] have really got the power in the relationship [between potential employee and employer] to name their price or dictate to their employer flexible working hours,” he highlighted.
For practice owners in areas with scarcer numbers of optometrists, Mr Thomas’ recruitment firm advises that it is important to promote both the business and the lifestyle of the region to a potential employee.
He added: “Some people will move solely based on money, but make sure you’ve got the whole package.”
Mr Thomas also recommended that practice owners take a long-term view of pre-reg placements.
“It’s vitally important to project a really positive and supportive environment for the students … and set a good impression that you provide training and mentoring,” he concluded.