Application submitted for a degree apprenticeship in optometry

A pan-sector Trailblazer Group has submitted an application and is now working on the development of an occupational standard

Eye test being performed

A Trailblazer Group that has been formed by a number of optical groups and individuals, including Specsavers and Vision Express, has submitted plans for the creation of a degree apprenticeship to train to become an optometrist.

The Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education confirmed to OT that it received an application for the establishment of an optometry apprenticeship on 18 September.

A spokesperson for the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education explained to OT that it is: “responsible for overseeing the development, approval and publication of new apprenticeships, including end point assessment plans which take place at the end of an apprenticeship to ensure they are fully able to do their job.”

The Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education confirmed that the Trailblazer Group has been cleared to develop an occupational standard for the apprenticeship, which includes a summary of key knowledge, skills and behaviours that must be learned through the apprenticeship in order to be able to do the job, and that this standard should align to the General Optical Council’s (GOC) standards for education and training.

“They will work on this over the coming months and submit it to the Institute for approval,” the spokesperson told OT.

A statement by the pan-sector Trailblazer Group said that the standards and end-point assessment would comply with GOC requirements and be co-created with universities.

In the process, the occupational standard, an end point assessment, and a funding band need to be approved before the apprenticeship can be used by employers and apprentices, the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education said.

If the apprenticeship is approved, employers will be able to begin recruitment for apprentices, who, on completion of the programme, will be able to register with the GOC as optometrists.

Read more about the degree apprenticeship here

Image credit: Getty/manley09


Comments (26)

You must be logged in to join the discussion. Log in

  • Anonymous20 December 2019

    "A Trailblazer Group that has been formed by a number of optical groups and individuals, including Specsavers and Vision Express"

    Absolute shame on these greedy, unethical companies who are pushing all methods possible to increase their bottom line. Money making machines that have disillusioned the general public over the years. No interest in protecting and upholding the reputation of the profession. Only interest is to sell, sell, sell at the lowest possible cost. I would encourage any optometrist employed by these optometrists to take a stand and say enough is enough. You are better than that.

    Report 4

  • Anonymous12 December 2019

    I agree with a lot of the responses. the source of the apprenticeship is the one that concerns me, Its not difficult to imagine the control over the profession that these companies desire.
    if a different independent apprenticeship could be offered away from retail giants this could be useful addition. I don't have any experience of apprenticeship but have heard that small independent professions have flourished in different countries such as Germany and Switzerland.

    not sure if this model would work in UK, it might mean refractionist, optometrist and ophthalmologists. it is confusing enough for general public to remember Optometrist at times!

    I feel as a profession our voice should be heard and we should try and meaning full engage with the proposals. could someone like the college of Optometrist propose an alternative?

    Report 3

  • optic028 November 2019

    What's the point of 3 years of uni? So you can hear the views of stubborn independent scientists, academics and cynical fellow students who don't answer to billionaire tax exiles.
    Yes: these boffins are out of touch with the business world but if we think like perfectly trained corporate workplace robots, we aren't going to be able to act in the patient's best interests: That's why people trust us when they come and get their eyes tested.

    Report 9

  • Anonymous22 November 2019

    Response to previous - My point is optometry education should not be taught in a retail setting. It is best taught full time at university. The current route is safe. There is NOT one valid reason for introducing this apprenticeship. A pointless proposal that can have irreversible damaging implications.

    University students are well supervised and taught by qualified staff, expert in their field. How will the apprentice be taught and supervised exactly? Apprenticeships are simply not suitable for optometry same with pharmacy, medicine, dentistry.

    Report 31

  • Anonymous22 November 2019

    Response to previous. How do you it will just produce a sales person that can refract? They candidate will still have to meet GOC standards , which will include the medical knowledge

    Report 7

  • Anonymous22 November 2019

    Response to (previous anonymous) - I agree in that achieving amazing academic results will not make your pre reg year easy nor will it produce a better optometrist. YES. However, this proposal was not designed to replace the university route.

    Your issue of university not preparing students well for Pre Reg is a separate topic that has nothing to do with the notion of the proposal.

    I can only see this plan damaging the reputation of optometry. A surgeon can not become a surgeon through doing an apprenticeship. A dentist cannot become a dentist via an apprenticeship. The role of an optometrist isn’t to just prescribe and sell glasses to customers. They are considered medical professionals.

    University produces a versatile professional able to develop and adapt to any setting, not a one dimensional apprentice that will just be good at refraction and sales. I believe this proposal will only benefit directors. A proposal made for one motive, financial gain. If this apprenticeship goes forward, I believe there should be a two tier system with the role of the optometrist.

    Report 15

  • Anonymous22 November 2019

    In my opinion , the current university degree is old fashioned and does not produce candidates capable of stepping in to the modern optometrist role. I’ve been an Optom for 20 years, in that time I’ve supervised 1st class honours students, who are no better than the students that struggled through uni. It’s the pre reg/ practical year that makes or breaks students . If the new format allows much more hands on experience, and more modern /useful theory , I believe this could be a good thing . Let’s not all jump on the doom and gloom band wagon , and start embracing change in our profession . Entry in to the optometry course ( or indeed any course) based on academic school results is out dated. The ability to get an A in maths or physics when you are 16 or 17 years old , does not make you a better health care professional. You can’t teach empathy or people skills , and hands on experience out weighs any theory you’ve read in a book. Ask yourself , when was the last time you interviewed an Optom and asked what they achieved at school ?

    Report 23

  • Anonymous21 November 2019

    I STRONGLY PROTEST the green lighting of this optometry apprenticeship proposal. I think it will have a wide range of negative effects on the profession which will be holistically damaging and irreversible . At the very core of optometry - is the relationship established between a highly skilled, trained and educated clinician and their patient; and by extension the public perception of this relationship. This is of absolute paramount in maintaining and retaining the public’s trust in our clinical and professional ability. This trust is bred principally from an extremely rigorous selection process to ensure any candidate possesses the intellectual aptitude to provide the high standards of patient care in optometry - we as optometrists, first meet the framework of this high standard at the university admissions process; whereby to even enter an undergraduate programme, one has to be accomplished in science and or maths A Levels. Thereafter a simple degree in optometry isn’t enough to commence a pre-reg programme; as a minimum candidates must have acquired a second lower class honours. These extremely high standards ensure the candidates will go on to produce optometrists which the public can trust with their ocular health. An apprenticeship programme bypasses this standard by cutting through all the hard graft and scholastic aptitude it requires to even get a foot into a pre reg programme. By lowering the academic bar to enter the optometric profession- it would open the flood gates for those who academically performed poorly, an entry route, for an extremely academically demanding profession and furthermore go on to produce poorer quality clinicians which by extension would threaten public safety and ocular health; ultimately dismantling the public perception of their highly educated optometrists and conclusively destroying the public’s trust in optometry.

    Report 18

  • i2i202021 November 2019

    Dear Anonymous (last entry),
    I'm not sure anyone has claimed independents are in it for healthcare. We all need our employer, whether they be an Indie or a Multiple, to make a profit in order that we may be paid. However, it is the Multiples who seemed to be hell bent on gaining market share at the expense of all else. Until now, this has been with unprofessional free sight test offers, or tacky offers. This of course devalues the profession of optometry and damages us all, no matter who we work for. But to seek apprenticeship level entry is just another new low. Whilst I do not have a problem with apprentice hairdressers, plumbers etc. our medical peers and the general public are going to form an even lower opinion of us. If you are concerned about areas of the UK underserved by optometrists, then we need the universities to look at the cross section of optometry students they accept. Yes, controversial, but it's not representative of the population as a whole. Apprenticeships are not the answer to better distribution of optometrists, after all, they are just going to be working in existing multiple stores so that they can pay peanuts. Whether you work for an Indie or multiple, do not agree to supervise an apprentice. If you do, you will ultimately undermine your pay, your profession and your professionally qualified colleagues. The only winners will be the owners of the multiples.

    Report 27

  • Anonymous21 November 2019

    I am a little concerned about the negative comments about our colleagues in multiples. We have all completed the same training and perform the same job daily. To claim multiples are only in it for the money yet independent practices are there purely for health care , is very narrow minded and frankly unprofessional. Regarding apprenticeship degrees, let’s see how it looks before making our minds up . There is areas in the U.K. that can not provide eyecare due to severe shortage of optoms . Pxs having to travel 2 hours for an eye exam is not acceptable. If we can find a way to safely care for these people, surely that’s a good thing ?!

    Report 4

  • 20 November 2019


    Report 21

  • Ameesha19 November 2019

    ...I would be more anxious about a mistake being made

    Report 8

  • Anonymous19 November 2019

    I for one will not be supervising an apprentice on my registration number.. I doubt many optometrists will... good luck with that one!

    Report 29

  • Anonymous19 November 2019

    This is terrible news and indeed where are the voices of our Governing bodies that should have stopped this before it got to this stage? This is totally undermining the profession.

    Report 24

  • Anonymous18 November 2019

    I might push my retirement date forward. You know, so that I can retire as a professional -and not as as a retail tradesman.

    Report 59

  • Anonymous18 November 2019

    Complete disregard for the profession! Change has to start from the bottom! All you big corporations have caused this with your Free Eye Tests! Disgrace if this gets approved!

    Report 48

  • Anonymous18 November 2019

    Although I'm not shocked to see names of large multiples as part of this trailblazer group - who are mostly interested in increasing their bottom line - I'm suprised to see some hospitals and universities included in the mix.
    The profession has come a long way by introducing post-graduate diploma and IP courses to improve clinical skills, and the introduction of this apprenticeship is a step backwards. The profession is already devalued in the public eye and at a time where universities should be concentrating in improving current optometry courses to ensure graduates start their pre-reg with up-to-date knowledge on how to use the latest technology, their interested in introducing this apprenticeship route where trainees are unlikely to have the same clinical knowledge and grounding; it will be retail based and companies will focus on increasing their return on investment.
    Supervising a pre-reg is tough, especially when the supervisor has to run their own clinic at 20-25min testing time. Having to supervise someone on this apprenticeship, who doesn't not have the background knowledge in optics, will be extremely difficult for a supervisor, and not to mention the clinical risk that would be shouldered by the supervisor and practice.

    Report 40

  • Anonymous18 November 2019

    The idea of this going ahead is so demoralising.
    You need the degree to have your knowledge base which you then put into practice in the pre-reg year. It was hard enough to get a place on the course as the a level requirement was high and in science and maths only being accepted.
    We worked so hard to qualify.
    We are responsible for more than we ever used to be with WECS/MECS. I can’t see how an apprenticeship is moving the profession forward.
    This is disgraceful if this goes ahead!

    Report 39

  • Anonymous18 November 2019

    I couldn't believe it when a peer of mine gave me this information today. I didn't go through all my studies and throughout my degree and pre-reg to find out years down the line that you could possibly get into the profession a different / easier way.

    This really devalues our profession, skills and expertise. We won't be taken as seriously. This is the exact reason I left any multiple opticians and now only locum for independents.

    It took me over 4 years to fully qualify and there were times where the degree/ pre-registration year was really tough. Optometrists need to go through the course the right way to get the background knowledge and to become fully competent. Cutting corners will only lead to optometrists that may be unsure of their management and advice to patients. If this happens then I may aswell retrain in another profession as this will mean that Optometry will no longer be taken seriously.

    This cannot happen ! Sign the petition every one.

    Report 37

  • Don Williams18 November 2019

    I strongly believe that the profession needs 'upskilling' and not 'deskilling'. I am however unsure of how this proposal will affect the profession. All that said, I really cannot see this a step forward for the profession. It is a real shame that we Optoms haven't got some sort of institution or lobby with enough power to try and scrutinise and dismiss such proposals. My personal view: I do pray that this proposal is rejected. I just cannot see how this would catapult the profession forward. Real shame!

    Report 35

  • i2i202018 November 2019

    To all those optometrists reading this that work for Specsavers, Vision Express and all the other multiples that offer free sight tests: YOU HAVE BROUGHT THIS UPON YOURSELVES. You have already devalued the profession by working for companies that offer these promotions, and now we will all pay the price.

    Report 45

  • Anonymous18 November 2019

    Report 17

  • Anonymous18 November 2019

    This apprenticeship will undermine the profession due to the minimum wage of apprenticeships. The market will become saturated with optometry candidates thus lowering wages. Why do other healthcare professions such as dentists and doctors escape the apprenticeship routes whilst pharmacy and optometry suffer?

    Report 52

  • Anonymous15 November 2019

    Pathetic, race to the bottom.

    Report 41

  • namsu243014 November 2019

    Where is the AOP or College statement about the proposal stage? Why is it we didn't have a strong rejection like other professions like pharmacists who have managed to reject the proposal. I heard nothing of this till now!

    I recommend everyone go though the proposal and reject it. It's a farce if we let this happen to our profession.

    If we do get ready for low wages and apprenticeships starting at under £4 an hour!

    Report 40

  • namsu243013 November 2019

    Dead against this. Turning out progression into a joke. Lowering the entry requirements and allowing these companies to flood the market with more optometrists. All in an effort to drive down wages.

    Report 54

Report a comment
Close modal