The Federal Government has confirmed more than 300 optical dispensing placements under a new trainee wage subsidy program, as one training provider revealed it has employed four new teachers to cope with the surging demand.
Optical dispensing was one of several industries to benefit from the government’s $1.2 billion Boosting Apprenticeship Commencements (BAC) initiative, which involves a wage subsidy of up to 50% for new or existing employees enrolled into appropriate courses.
As of 14 January, a Department of Education, Skills and Employment spokesperson said more than 300 placements have been registered from employers with staff commencing optical dispensing training programs. However, Insight understands the actual number is likely to be much higher once more applications are finalised.
Industry figures hope the scheme will encourage more employers to upskill their optical assistants and help address a shortage of qualified dispensers in Australia.
With the BAC capped at 100,000 placements, the majority of registrations have come from the construction and building, retail and hospitality sectors.
Following the scheme’s announcement in October’s Federal Budget, the Australasian College of Optical Dispensing (ACOD) – which is now in its fifth year of operation – has had hundreds of employees from around Australia enrol into its Certificate IV in Optical Dispensing (HLT47815), with many already commencing course work in preparation for their first workshops.
“The result has been phenomenal, and will impact our industry profoundly,” ACOD director and senior trainer Mr James Gibbins said.
“In order to meet this sudden surge in demand for places, and to cope with the increase in both size and number of workshops, ACOD has responded immediately, including the purchase of new training equipment – like 24 focimeters through Tony Cosentino at BOC Ophthalmic Instruments – the addition of more online materials, and most importantly the addition of four new teachers to the ACOD teaching team, bringing the total teaching team to 15.”
ACOD’s new teachers include Ms Kylie Prince (Brisbane, Queensland), Ms Lara Markham (Shell Harbour, New South Wales), Ms Elizabeth Sumner (Geelong, Victoria) and Ms Teresa Mackie (Perth, Western Australia).
“It has always been a policy of ACOD to induct new teachers gently, allowing them to grow and develop in a controlled fashion under the mentorship of the senior teachers,” Gibbins said.
“However, in light of this huge enrolment, we hope to see these new teachers fast track their progress as much as possible. Fortunately, many of this year’s workshops will have up to 50 students at a time, with the one large group lecture in the mornings and smaller work groups in the afternoons, and the new teachers will be guided and overseen by the more experienced teachers.”
Previously, Gibbins has encouraged employers to promote the enrolment of their staff into the program promptly for two reasons – to ensure they are included in the program before it’s over-subscribed, and to maximise the wage subsidy which is backdated to the date of registration on the ACOD website.