Feature, Optical Dispensing

Training surge – a ray of light for optical dispensing

Australian optical dispensing is amid one of its most transformational periods thanks to a fortuitous trainee wage subsidy program. Trainer VIRGILIA READETT explains the impact it’s going to have.

If knowledge is power, by extension the current surge in optical dispensing training will empower individuals and their workplace.

Virgilia Readett.

The incentives for training and the incredible take up across the optical industry have been one of the positives to come out of 2020.

As an example of this, Australasian College of Optical Dispensing (ACOD) founder and director Mr James Gibbins has told me the college has seen an increase in enrolments every year since launching five years ago, even though this was modest for much of 2020 due to COVID-19.

But since October, the enrolment rate has taken off due to the Federal Government traineeship support program (Boosting Apprenticeship Commencements – BAC) and this enrolment increase is continuing right now due to a recently announced extension.

How have individual students been affected? For many, these training incentives mean an opportunity for training they may not have had, or at least had so soon.

Also, if we increase the skill base by qualifying optical assistants to become optical dispensers, customers will receive far better service, businesses will generate a higher rate of sales while reducing non-adapts and wastage. The lens labs will receive a higher quality of ordering and reduced demand for warranty replacements, and the dispensers themselves will no doubt experience a higher degree of confidence, job satisfaction and sense of professionalism.

Current ACOD student from Tasmania, Mr Oliver Burdon, explained to me that completing his Cert IV was something he’s wanted to do since starting in optics. For him, the BAC subsidy made it more alluring for his employer, and probably accelerated the process. But, one way or another, he would have looked to enrol at some point and gain the qualification.

When asked what this qualification will mean for him personally Oliver said: “It means a solid knowledge base and gives me the confidence to help train my optical assistants to an industry standard. It will help open doors for my career and will open the gates to further study and qualifications in the industry. Gaining my Cert IV will lead me to a greater appreciation of what I’m dispensing day- to-day and allow me to work closer with my optometrist and lab.”

This positivity spreads. Empowering individuals will also benefit their team, their practice, and their customers. Mr Haydn Williams, optometry partner at Specsavers Charlestown, NSW, who currently has three team members enrolled with ACOD, has told me his team members will have increased autonomy in their roles.

He also believes they will have greater confidence to work as an individual within a team which should have a flow on effect to new employees. Greater confidence and increased ability to help people will also equal increased satisfaction. Armed with greater knowledge and increased responsibility, he says it’ll also give his staff a greater sense of pride in their work.

But why is this so important and so exciting? Because of the quality of service our customers will receive. The reason we do what we do – to assist the wider community to access their best vision. Haydn’s prediction for his customers was: “Better bespoke advice and increased ability to help efficiently.”

COVID fast tracked innovation in many industries including the training sector. For students like Oliver, he’s studied in person and online through different providers over the years and he’s now found he’s nailing the balance between online and in person teaching through ACOD.

Like many other students, he likes the structure of learning at his own pace between workshops. Information is easily accessible, and if he gets stuck, the teachers are an email away.

To cope with the surging demand in enrolments, James Gibbins and the team at ACOD have responded swiftly and increased capacity significantly in recent months. We’re aware that we’re working in the midst of a transformational period for our industry, one that will see literally hundreds of qualified optical dispensers released into our industry over the next couple of years, re-invigorating our industry for years to come.

The future of dispensing is bright indeed, for business, employers, employees, and customers.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Virgilia Readett teaches with ACOD and has been in optics since 2012. She holds a Certificate IV in Optical Dispensing, Certificate IV in Training & Assessing, and a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Communications.

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