Specsavers highlights optometry careers at the Big Bang Fair

The STEM careers fair was attended by 40,000 children aged between 11 and 14. Specsavers early careers manager, Lucy Knock, told OT  about the importance of engaging this age group

Lucy Knock

Specsavers has reported an “overwhelmingly positive” reaction from students, parents and teachers at a careers fair focusing on opportunities within science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).

The Big Bang Fair, held at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham between 22 and 24 June, drew 40,000 children between the ages of 11 and 14.

Clinicians and practice teams from Specsavers hosted a stand at the fair with interactive activities designed to help young people learn more about careers in eye and hearing care.

Demonstrations illustrated the impact optometrists and audiologists can have on patients who are living with conditions like glaucoma or hearing loss.

Speaking to OT about the careers fair, Lucy Knock, Specsavers early careers manager, clinical services, shared: “We know that by the age of 14, students are making important decisions about the subjects they will study, and are beginning to think about future career areas. We want to ensure these students are aware of optometry as an attractive and rewarding STEM career option, because we know most pupils, teachers and parents are not aware of it.”

“While we know it’s a fantastic career choice, we absolutely need to shout about it more,” Knock suggested.

With the careers fair focused on professions in STEM, Knock said: “It is absolutely crucial that we are seen as a STEM employer,” adding, “It’s vital that optometrists are seen by potential students as highly-regarded healthcare professionals.”

A key aim within Specsavers’ Early Careers strategy is to raise the profile of optometry as a career option.

“Attending careers fairs such as these position optometry in the same arena as medics, engineers, pharmacists, mathematicians, and allow us to compete in the talent pool for those high achieving, well-motivated STEM students,” Knock said.

The event also held a dual-purpose for the company as, in addition to raising awareness of optometry as a career, the team could also educate visitors on the role of optometrists within healthcare.

“Clinicians can share how the skill and knowledge of optometrists is being increasingly utilised, and with a growing recognition of how they can help patients,” Knock said. “They’re able to highlight the shift of hospital eye services into the community, increasing accessibility for patients with optometrists becoming actively involved in glaucoma monitoring, diabetic retinopathy screening and treatment of acute eye conditions.”

As well as discussing enhanced optical services, the optometrists at the fair were able to share how technology can help to diagnose conditions much earlier than has previously been the case, Knock shared.

Illustrating the company’s commitment to building relationships with the next generation, Knock commented: “After the last couple of years, where the younger generation has missed out on so much, we feel it is really important that we engage with schools more than ever to share the fantastic opportunities in our industry.”

Describing a “huge gap that needs filling,” Knock elaborated: “Students have lost out on a great deal of employer interaction, and we want to support schools in offering that engagement as much as we can in our local communities so that the next generation is aware of what’s on offer, can feel inspired and benefit from learning new skills and speaking to our STEM professionals.”