Becoming confident clinicians in a recovering labour market
One year after the first report investigating the impact of the pandemic on optometry students and pre-regs, OT looks back at how students have adapted to the challenges, and how employers are supporting the next generation of the profession
13 May 2022
“’Hopeful,’ ‘optimistic,’ ‘apprehensive’ and ‘uncertain’ are words used by students to describe their future,” suggested Huda Hathaf, AOP student representative and third-year optometry student, when asked how students might be feeling about the pre-reg application process and their readiness for joining the profession. “The last two years have certainly been some of the most challenging and unusual times for everyone.”
Placement availabilityThe availability of pre-reg placements has varied throughout the pandemic, and though there is a recovery, some students are still feeling the effects.
Providing a view into how students are finding the application process, Dr Leanne Smewing, clinical lead optometrist for the School of Health professions at the University of Plymouth, told OT: “Students have certainly found applying for pre-reg a little more difficult this academic year. There seems to be fewer places available than in a ‘normal’ year.”
The university has been supporting second and third year students with CV writing, and Smewing added: “It has been important to emphasise what year they are studying, as we know employers are receiving applications for students aiming to start pre-reg in both 2022 and 2023.”
Anil Kirit Rach, student representative for Optometry Scotland and fourth year optometry student, told OT: “Some of my fellow students have had concerns about securing their pre-reg placement due to changes in the number of pre-reg places available.”
Some practices have had to reduce the number of pre-regs they take on, while in some cases, students have encountered delays caused by an overlap with the previous pre-reg, although Rach said, “most students are still able to join the practice and gain experience front-of-house until there is testing room space for them.”
The majority of students feel there has been a lot of support in securing a placement, Rach found.
Third-year optometry student in Wales, Martha Glain, has also seen a level of anxiety from fellow third-year students about selecting a pre-reg placement.
Part of the reason for this, she suggested, has been that some practices have not been able to offer work experience placements due to capacity issues resulting from COVID-19 restrictions. “Some students have not been able to visit their chosen store to meet staff, or even get a feel for the area where the practice is located, before signing their contracts,” she said.
“In addition, some locations aren’t sure if their current pre-reg will finish their placement in time to take another in the summer,” she added.
Highlighting the importance of forming these connections, Glain said: “This is where we’ll be spending more than a year of our lives, and we know that it can often be a very challenging journey, so it’s crucial that the environment we find ourselves in is supportive, and that we can feel at home there.”
The Scheme for Registration
Lizzy Ostler, director of education at the College of Optometrists, gave OT an insight into how the Scheme for Registration has recovered from the challenges of the pandemic.
The Scheme is still provided around the GOC’s temporary Handbook and amendments, Ostler confirmed: “This currently includes a reduced daily capacity for OSCE examinations, to allow for cleaning time between stations, an online experience that replaces the Hospital Eye Service for those who need it, and a blend of remote and face-to-face work-based assessments.”
A key challenge for the Scheme has been supporting trainees to progress in a “timely way” and to continue to promote the benefits of hosting trainees to employers, “so that placement availability continues to match demand.”
Numbers indicate that over 95% of both the 2020 – 21 graduating cohort, and the previous cohort, have found a placement and enrolled on the Scheme.
The initial outbreak of the pandemic, introduction of COVID-19 restrictions and need for changes to the assessment processes to be approved by the GOC created a significant pause in enrolments and progression, Ostler acknowledged.
As a result, all affected pre-regs have been provided with an extension of the time allowed to complete the Scheme, while additional consideration has been given by the appeals panel to those with further difficulties in progressing.
“Despite all of this, trainees have continued to complete assessments and qualify, with 2021 the largest number of new optometrists we have qualified to date, without changing competencies achieved or altering standards,” she said.
Employers have been seeking to support pre-reg optometrists and students in the transition from studies to placement, or to provide new opportunities.
Among those expanding availability, Specsavers told OT that it intends to increase the number of pre-reg places offered this year.
Places have risen from 450 in 2019, to over 500 in 2020, and for the 2021–2022 period Specsavers has made more than 550 offers and continues to support students “who have been unable to secure a position elsewhere.”
“There is an enormous amount of competition for places, particularly in the popular city centre and more central locations,” Victoria Taylor, head of graduate recruitment at Specsavers, said. “Many of our vacancies in those areas will typically receive more than 100 applicants per role.”
The company has adopted a more flexible approach to its pre-reg programme to “withstand the challenges” of recent years. For example, the onboarding process has evolved from a focus on the autumn months to extend beyond this, Taylor said, finding that this is “more accommodating for both students and practices.”
“I believe we have learnt a lot from doing things differently during the pandemic, and there have been some real positives,” Taylor reflected. Some processes have worked well virtually, but she added, “there is no replacement for getting out and meeting the students in person, which we love to do. I see us working in an agile way in the future, adjusting what we need to do in order to fit with the ever-changing landscape we operate in.”
I believe we have learnt a lot from doing things differently during the pandemic, and there have been some real positives
David Clulow also intends to broaden placement availability in its practices, offering 10 places for the 2022–2023 cohort.
This follows on from the positive experiences of three pre-reg optometrists within the company, explained Natasha Luthra, resident optometrist at David Clulow’s Wigmore Street flagship site, as well as “the growth in interest from our optometrists to supervise, and the capacity to add additional testing rooms to several practices.”
“We’ve already had a mammoth surge in CVs to head office through word-of-mouth, as London placements are so highly sought after,” she continued. With advertising of its pre-reg programme due to be rolled out in the future, the company expects to see even greater demand.
Timelines are still in place to aim for qualifying within 11 to 14 months of embarking on the Scheme at David Clulow, though the company aims to take a personal approach to each pre-reg, appreciating that “everyone needs support in different ways,” Luthra shared.
Boots Opticians currently has 11 pre-regs on its programme, with the intention of welcoming around 85 new members to its team in the summer.
Jayne Johnson, learning and development manager at Boots Opticians, told OT that the team had already planned to integrate virtual elements into its programme, but these were accelerated by the pandemic.
As a result of the pandemic, elements of the application process have moved online with virtual interviews and sessions with optometry schools. Johnson added: “We know it has been a difficult time for students over the last few years and we try to ensure the support and care that we offer comes across when we present.”
Accelerating the roll-out of a virtual programme “allowed us to review the benefits of online learning and its accessibility for bitesize sessions,” Johnson shared.
Running the programme on the platform for a year has helped Boots Opticians to “scope our programme even further for the current year,” she added, “giving us the benefits of online lectures mixed with face-to-face smaller workshops which our colleagues benefit from and really enjoy.”
The business provides a range of support to help pre-regs through their placement, with monthly workshops – some of which are held in-person in triplet groups, peer groups, or full year groups. Activities focus on a range of topics from clinical skills, to the skills needed to support them through the Scheme for Registration, and business knowledge.
“This is all supported by three pre-reg specialists who not only look after our pre-regs but also facilitate supervisor drop-in sessions to support knowledge and understanding of the milestones throughout the Scheme for Registration as well as peer networking,” Johnson said. The specialists work with practice managers and area teams “to create a truly integrated programme.”
We’ve got so much to offer in independent practices
In independent practice, Claire Slade, head of professional advancement and governance at the Hakim Group, told OT: “We have crafted our pre-reg experience to ensure it’s not based around volume, but really creating well rounded optometrists of the future who could work anywhere, and achieve all their aspirations with multiple pathways for career progression.’’
“Previously there hasn’t been one port of call for pre-regs interested in working in independent practice,” she shared, and “there’s not a massive number of pre-regs being trained in independent practice.”
The business has created a central resourcing team to act as a key point of contact for students interested in pursuing a pre-reg in independent practice. Slade suggested this offers a new experience for pre-regs, “and another career opportunity that might not always be obvious to them.”
Students can apply with their CV and information about where they would like to be based or might be willing to move to, and the team then works to try and pair successful applicants with practices.
This work is beginning with engaging universities and talking to second years about independent practice. Slade noted: “We bring in some independent joint venture partners to share that concept with them early on, that part of your career might involve being your own practice owner. That might be an aspirational seed that we can plant early on.”
Meanwhile, the team is keen to support the current cohort of graduates and pre-regs, to try and place more people.
Outlining the business’ desire to support future optometrists, Slade said: “We’ve got so much to offer in independent practices, and I think it can really be the best place to train.”
Enhancing the SchemeA survey of pre-reg trainees and assessors carried out by the College of Optometrists in 2021 revealed that the “vast majority” felt positive about their experiences of the Scheme for Registration, Ostler said.
Common themes for ways to enhance the Scheme have been developed by the College into an action plan. These include providing enhanced detail in online guidance, adjusting the format of some elements of assessment, or assessing both eyes during the routine eye test - rather than just the one – which was introduced as a COVID-19 modification. Additional enhancements could include further developing quality assurance activities for the work-based assessment, to come more closely into line with those used for OSCEs.
The temporary handbook changes for pre-reg, made in response to the challenges of the pandemic, were extended for the 2022-23 academic year, and the College confirmed it would be undertaking a review in September.
“We are learning from the experiences offered by changes introduced in 2020, and will be seeking to retain those that offer a more effective or efficient assessment experience,” Ostler said. “For example, we are now working towards recognising a blended approach to the Hospital Eye Service experience – taking the best elements of online provision and, where appropriate, combining these with in-clinic observation sessions.”
Challenges to confidence
Discussing the challenges students have faced over recent years, Hathaf told OT: “One of the concerns students face following the pandemic is transitioning from a student to a confident clinician.”
For some, a difficulty in developing that clinical confidence has come about as a result of struggles to secure work experience placements during the pandemic.
Work experience is valuable for supporting the understanding of students. University of Plymouth’s Smewing shared that the department has found: “Particularly in dispensing clinics, those who have worked in optical practice and have dispensed before show real confidence and achieve the necessary episodes and competencies at a faster rate.”
To support students who don’t feel as confident, the university runs additional sign-up sessions to offer the opportunity to gain additional hours of experience in the patient clinic.
Glain reflected that, because of the added pressure of COVID-19: “I feel as though I haven’t had the same level of clinical exposure during my time at university, where a lot of students see their first ‘real’ pathology.”
In addition, she noted that “A lot of pre-reg placements are looking for previous experience working at a clinical practice – an experience many students have not been able to have due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Because of this, options for placements are limited and students are feeling pressured to accept any offers that come their way.”
Third-year optometry student, Amy Cooper, agreed recognising that “understandably, practices aren’t too keen on bringing in additional unnecessary people,” and that often it has not been possible to have a student in the testing room with the optometrist, while maintaining a reasonable distance.
Explaining why this is worrying to students, she shared: “I think that some people are concerned that they should have more to show on an application, or think that it’s absolutely crucial to have lots of work experience.”
Concerns about confidence and ‘having more to show’ on applications have been common issues identified amongst broader populations of young people.
I think that some people are concerned that they should have more to show on an application, or think that it’s absolutely crucial to have lots of work experience
Research by the Institute for Employment Studies (IES), an independent centre for research in employment and human resource management, into employment of young people, found three different common experiences amongst university students.
Cristiana Orlando, health foundation research fellow, explained that IES research found experiences ranged from those who were concerned about higher levels of competition for graduate jobs in the year ahead, to those who felt the direct impact of the pandemic on the practical aspects of their degree, to students who had the added disadvantage of reduced opportunities for work experience.
She said: “All types of experiences are important to develop, and then show, those transferrable skills.”
“Young people are concerned that, increasingly, we are moving into a more competitive labour market, where employers have more stringent requirements for recent graduates,” she explained, adding: “There is a generalised anxiety of ‘I have to show something,’ and that the lack of experience of the practical side would be a deterrent that would play against them when looking for a job.”
Careers consultant, Estanis Bouza, at The Careers Group in City, University of London, also noted this nervousness from students: “I think we will always look back on the last couple of years as a period of time when lots of students missed valuable opportunities. Many have struggled in different ways over this time. I have spoken to many students about the anxiety that missing out on opportunities has caused them.”
While the group recognised that while organisations “made great efforts” to provide virtual experiences during lockdowns, there was an overall reduction in availability, and that, “it is still difficult to replicate some of the benefits of an in-person experience, particularly the more informal social benefits that would arise from just being in a shared environment with other workers.”
Some students have been particularly hard hit by the shrinking of opportunities over the past few years.
Research by The Sutton Trust, an organisation championing social mobility, indicates that 39% of graduates in their twenties have completed an internship, including almost half of young graduates under 24.
However, 2021 research indicated that there had been a drop in students from low-income backgrounds participating in extra-curricular activities.
Dr Rebecca Montacute, senior research and policy manager at the Sutton Trust, explained that, as focus shifted to core learning: “Unfortunately, this means that extra-curricular activities and work experience placements have fallen down the priority list, and this has affected disadvantaged students most keenly.”
This widening of the participation gap could have knock-on impacts to accessing the workplace, she suggested.
“Our previous research, in 2017, highlighted how important ‘essential life skills’ – things like confidence, motivation, and resilience – are for the workplace, with 94% of employers saying these skills are as, or more, important than academic qualities,” Montacute added. “It is vital that all young people have access to extra-curricular opportunities which help to develop these skills.”
The market and perceptionsWhat does this variation in opportunities, and impact to confidence, mean for students and how they feel about their prospects?
“As a student, navigating your career path and the pressure to make sure your pre-registration application stands out can be overwhelming,” shared Hathaf.
While work experience opportunities have become easier to access than early in the pandemic, some areas – such as hospital experience – have remained limited. “This has been difficult for students as it limits the chance to learn more about the profession of optometry,” she added.
Glain agreed: “I believe that a lot of students are feeling apprehensive about starting their pre-reg placement, a main reason being that, compared to students in previous years, we simply have not had as much experience of working in practice.
“Overall, I think students do feel ready, but perhaps not that they have the confidence to tackle complicated cases.”
The fluctuating levels of confidence seen amongst students have also been reflected in the labour market.
As a student, navigating your career path and making sure your pre-registration application stands out can be overwhelming
As job and work experience places started appearing again, IES noted a discrepancy between this recovery and young people’s perceptions of the market.
“That speaks about the lasting impact on confidence and motivation,” Orlando identified. “Young people who have had to transition from one stage of education to the next, or into the labour market, during the height of COVID-19, have had to face something humongous. It is stressful to bounce back from that.”
Looking forwards, the careers market seems positive. She told OT: “Across the country we are seeing the highest number of vacancies there has been for over 20 years, and they are not being filled.”
Bouza agreed: “The great news is that, according to the Institute of Student Employers’ Graduate Vacancy Survey, graduate vacancies have surpassed pre-pandemic levels, and are set to increase by 20% compared to pre-pandemic levels in 2019.”
“In other words, the number of vacancies has done more than recuperate, it is now higher than it was before COVID-19,” he said. But employers have noticed a drop in applications.
“Students are not putting themselves forward for opportunities as much as employers would like to see,” he concurred: “It is possible that the pandemic has affected students’ confidence to apply, or that students are not aware about the fact that the market is recuperating.”
Employers want good quality applications, Bouza said, recommending that students work on their levels of confidence, and observe “the positive messages we are getting from the labour market.”
In Scotland, Rach told OT that some students are worried about their experience levels and “meeting the expectations of practices.”
However, he identified: “Practices have been very supportive,” and while some students might not have had the same opportunity to see patients in third year, he added, “hopefully we’ll start to see that change as we move forward, and fourth year students have still been able to see patients.”
Having observed the impact of the pandemic on previous year groups, Indy Ghuman, final year student and chair of the AOP student committee, said: “I had somewhat discounted that those experiences would be viable for us and I was grateful I had an optical job that was providing me with experience nonetheless.”
However, many of his peers have also been able to secure optical jobs alongside studies. He said: “Despite the pandemic coming in between, especially in 2020, towards the middle and end of 2021, it seemed there were opportunities for students.”
These jobs “not only form the foundation of building that relationship with the practice to get a pre-reg place but also provides you with a baseline for experience to get a pre-reg elsewhere as well,” he noted.
Reflecting on his experience, Ghuman shared that while there have been difficulties, particularly in accessing hospital experience, “I had quite a diverse, enriched experience compared to what could be described as a very challenging environment.”
Employer requirementsTo address student concerns around the work experience factor of applications, OT reached out to a number of pre-reg employers. Consensus seemed to be that work experience was valuable, but that similar skills could be demonstrated outside of optical placements.
Asked the extent to which having work experience or prior part-time work within a practice is considered in applications, or as a condition for acceptance, Luthra, from David Clulow, said it is “hugely desirable and can help those looking for a placement secure one early if they’re already known candidates to us.”
However, for students who may have found practice experience hard to come by, she noted that “leadership, good organisational skills, and the ability to self-motivate as well as work in a team, are important transferrable skills” that can be demonstrated through extra-curricular interests in a CV or cover letter.
In order to be formally offered a placement in one of their practices, David Clulow does run an experience in practice prior to embarking on the Scheme, “so both parties can ensure the fit is right for them.”
Specsavers’ Taylor also reflected: “It is fair to say that having some exposure to a busy practice environment is an advantage. However experience working in any customer-facing role is also valuable and is of benefit to the individual themselves as well as a prospective employer.”
Taylor added that the business understands that not everyone can take on part-time employment to build their CV, so said: “I’d encourage you to consider bringing to light other examples in areas of your life where you might have been part of a team – sports clubs; charity and volunteer work.”
I do think we are going to see a lovely generation of optometrists come through who have a unique skill set that they have had to take on board
At interview stage, Boots looks for skills such as leadership, teamwork, customer care, and problem solving, Johnson said. She explained: “These examples can come from optical experience, but also any work experience, college or university experience, or from any other life situation.”
Johnson outlined: “Optical experience is not a must-have.”
Acknowledging that “optical experience is fantastic,” the Hakim Group’s Slade said, “I think everybody loves that pre-reg who has had a Saturday job in a practice so they get the sense of what it is all about.”
“But what we’re looking for are individuals who are ambitious and will go the extra mile.” She continued, “Sometimes the people who are best suited, are the ones who have perhaps done something different.
“If that means that they’ve had an experience, like running charity events or being a Guide leader, but they haven’t had that weekend or holiday job in a practice, that’s fine by us,” she said. “We want to know about every experience like that – where you’ve pushed yourself above and beyond. We want people who engage with the environment around us.”
This will mean that applicants need to put a lot of thought into the experiences they might have had in their journey so far.
“People quite often have skills and knowledge that they probably don’t put a lot of value on,” she said. “Sometimes the things that you do for fun, from an employer point of view, demonstrate that you have got a fantastic skill.”
Recognising the impact of the pandemicAs part of its research, IES put together recommendations for employers and stakeholders involved in the employment of young people.
Speaking to OT, Orlando said: “The first element is to listen to what young people are saying.”
“What do they talk about when discussing positive experiences? From being provided with a diverse learning experience, to being given guided opportunities to actively develop new skills, feeling that the employer is involved in their development but also their wellbeing – mental health in the workplace is becoming increasingly important.”
She noted: “One of the things that young people themselves suggested was: ‘give us more opportunities from an earlier stage to start developing skills, don’t wait for us to graduate.’ Whether that be shadowing, short placements, or internships.”
Montacute at the Sutton Trust highlighted: “It’s important for organisations to keep in mind when looking at applications that young people will likely not have been able to gain as much work experience over the last couple of years.
“It’s also crucial to recognise the impact of the pandemic on their education,” she added. “Workplaces should assess candidates based on their future potential, and not necessarily the experiences they have undertaken.”
OT asks the students: what would be one thing you would want employers, or the profession, to understand?
Glain: I think it’s important that employers understand the massive impact COVID-19 has had on our studies these last few years. Once, in-person clinics would have been a hub of activity, full of interesting pathologies, discussion and debate. Now, with the limited characteristics of patients in university clinics, there are fewer opportunities to understand why you are doing certain tests.
Cooper: I’d want potential employers to know that we are, and have been, trying our best to make the most of a challenging situation. We are acutely aware that we may have missed out in some aspects, and while this may be frustrating, we’ve done as much as we could and developed other skills, such as adaptability and independence.
Hathaf: I think employers and professionals understand clearly the impact COVID-19 has had on students, as they are going through the same struggles. Unfortunately, COVID-19 is something we’ll have to live with for a long time. However, there are positives to come out of this. It has highlighted the importance of working together and adapting to new situations. Despite the rapid and dramatic changes in the world, it’s important always to look towards a positive future.
Rach: COVID-19 has definitely added a layer of uncertainty around securing a place. Interviews have been via video calls, rather than in-person, which means students haven’t always had the chance to see the practice and meet the team, so providing an opportunity to come into practices would be welcomed. Many of the multiple’s student events have been largely online, but we are looking forward to going back to face-to-face events, which allow students to get a better feel for organisations, and meet their representatives in person.
Ghuman: Going into pre-reg and my future career, I trust the process and that by working hard and learning from the experiences, we will have the same set of skills as those that graduated before the pandemic. I think we’ve all been trained to work in this environment now. While optometrists in the field faced a landslide change in PPE and adapting their tests, university students have been equipped to the new way of working, which I think is a good thing.
A new generation
Chair of the AOP student committee, Ghuman, reflected that while experiences have been so different – such as the addition of PPE, which has made communicating more challenging – they have brought their own benefits.
“Developing those communication and interpersonal skills would have been more difficult,” he said. “But doing so would be very beneficial, because you’ve got that extra skillset of being able to build a rapport with a patient while wearing a mask, and being able to show that you are listening, and engaging with them, with these extra obstacles in your way.”
He suggested that students can make the most of experiences to shape them to “what they want it to be.”
Ghuman added: “I think something that employers and other optometrists in the profession will maybe notice about the graduates coming up through the pandemic, is that they are a lot more adaptable to change.”
Similarly, Bouza shared that students have showcased flexibility, “perseverance and stamina to keep going.”
“They all count,” he said. “Employers love candidates who can reflect on what they have learned and can explain clearly the value of this.”
I think something that employers and other optometrists in the profession will maybe notice about the graduates coming up through the pandemic, is that they are a lot more adaptable to change
In addition to the transferrable skills students might bring from their work experiences, part-time roles, or extra-curricular activities, employers also recognise that students will have a different set of skills following the pandemic.
Speaking to OT, Slade observed: “When I look at the students who have come up in the last 18 months, I think they must have bravery and tenacity in bucketloads to adapt through COVID-19.”
“I do think we are going to see a lovely generation of optometrists come through who have a unique skill set that they have had to take on board, and it will arm them very well,” she added.
Location, location, location – pre-reg edition
One issue often raised in discussions around work experience, pre-reg placements and careers opportunities is that of the large numbers of students seeking positions around the major cities and university areas.
Taylor, at Specsavers, shared that geographic flexibility is becoming an increasing challenge. She said: “our ambition is to consistently offer more pre-reg opportunities each year and these simply cannot all be based in cities and central locations.”
For those who may have struggled to secure desired experience, she suggested one way to expand options is to: “Think outside the box geographically – for example, if you’re not able to secure a role near university, are you able to work elsewhere during summer or seasonal holiday breaks?”
Plymouth University’s Smewing explained that the university has seen more students remain in the area post-graduation, adding: “I would say that in Devon and Cornwall we are starting to see more students remain in the region.”
“When applying for a pre-reg, I would recommend thinking about the ‘whole picture’ – somewhere that you want to live as well as work,” she suggested. “Often looking a little further afield and stretching the catchment area by an extra 10 to 15 minutes, or considering a new location altogether, can open up more opportunities – something to consider if finding a pre-reg is challenging for an individual.”
Claire Slade told OT that the high concentrations of students in key areas can be a worry for employers.
She noted that some might expect the message “that you might need to go further afield if you want to get a great placement” to come from universities, but she emphasised that it shouldn’t all be down to education facilities.
“I do think the industry could do better within itself to recruit a broader diversity of people into our industry,” she added.
One factor worth considering when discussing the issue of location, is the geographic accessibility of placements, and the ability to move for opportunities – a barrier that predates the pandemic.
The Sutton Trust has found that for 40% of those who have not undertaken an internship, there were external obstacles, such as being unable to afford to, or being unable to move to, a city for the opportunity.
Research by the IES, too, has found that young people in rural areas, deprived urban areas, or rural and deprived areas, particularly struggled with access.
“There are young people in certain areas saying ‘we just don’t have the opportunities here,’ and other students recognising ‘we have the opportunities here but the cost of living and commuting are so high, that we still experience those issues’,” Orlando told OT, highlighting that during the pandemic remote working experiences have provided possibilities that students wouldn’t have otherwise been able to access.
Though barriers to accessing experience exist for some students, Bouza advised: “Remember that employers are gradually becoming more and more aware of the value of a diverse workplace. If you have any difficulty in accessing a placement, don’t be afraid to ask whether there are any ways in which they can make it easier for you.”
“They often will not want to miss out on good candidates without helping them access their opportunities,” he continued.
He advised that, when approaching employers to ask for this kind of support, “be clear on why you want to work with them, what would make you a great candidate, articulate what would make it easier for you to take on the opportunity and ask directly whether such support is available.”
Even if the answer is ‘no,’ he suggested: “you would be delivering a reminder that employers might be missing out on good talent, at a time when we know that they wish they had more good quality applications.”
A place to turn: five resources from the AOP
- Students and pre-reg members can use the AOP’s Pre-reg register to list their availability for a placement
- OT’s education library hosts OT’s skills guides along with archived CPD articles, covering a range of topic areas
- The Peer Support Line offers a free and confidential helpline for members and non-members at any stage of their career to discuss their problems with a trained peer. The line can be accessed at 0800 870 8401
- The AOP’s employment team is available to support and advise AOP members on pre-registration contracts and employment law and can be contacted at [email protected]
- AOP student, newly-qualified and locum members can apply for the AOP mentoring scheme to be paired with an experienced member of the profession for support on a variety of topics and issues.
OT would like to thank the following contributors:
- Huda Hathaf, AOP student representative and third-year at Cardiff University
- Dr Leanne Smewing, clinical lead optometrist for the School of Health professions at the University of Plymouth
- Indy Ghuman, final-year student at Aston University and chair of the AOP student committee
- Anil Kirit Rach, student representative for Optometry Scotland and fourth year optometry student
- Lizzy Ostler, director of education at the College of Optometrists
- Victoria Taylor, head of graduate recruitment at Specsavers
- Natasha Luthra, resident optometrist at David Clulow’s Wigmore Street flagship site
- Jayne Johnson, learning and development manager at Boots Opticians
- Claire Slade, head of professional advancement and governance at the Hakim Group
- Amy Cooper, final-year student at Cardiff University
- Matha Glain, optometry student at Cardiff University
- Cristiana Orlando, health foundation research fellow, Institute for Employment Studies
- Careers consultant, Estanis Bouza, from the City, University of London’s careers department
- Dr Rebecca Montacute, senior research and policy manager at the Sutton Trust.