CLEAR-SIGHTED Poppy Boulton and Maddison Stanford Smith have their eyes on a fulfilling career in the optical industry – and are urging other young people to follow their lead as apprentices.

This week is National Apprenticeship Week (February 5 to 11) with a wide range of Somerset organisations announcing opportunities for people.

Optical assistants Poppy and Maddi have recently completed their apprenticeships in Specsavers’ Minehead store, in The Parade.

Poppy, who gained distinctions in all areas after working in the store for 16 months, said: “The apprenticeship was the perfect match for me.

“It has the best blend of academic studying and hands-on work.

“This really helped me to be able to complete new tasks with the right knowledge to back it up and improve my confidence.

“It has been such a joy to meet new people, learn new things, and build a rapport with the community.

“The apprenticeship team were extremely helpful, always being there to offer one-to-one support and giving and receiving feedback with my supervisors in store.

“I loved the fact this apprenticeship provided me with so many opportunities and chances for career progression in optics, a subject that I have grown to enjoy.

“After finishing my apprenticeship with a distinction, thanks to all the support, I am now studying Cert 3 and aim to continue to Cert 4.”

The Minehead store’s success comes as Specsavers’ apprenticeship programme achieved an ‘outstanding’ grading from Ofsted.

It is the only optical and retail training employer provider to have achieved this rating on Ofsted’s latest list of outstanding providers in England.

Maddison, who has worked in the Minehead store for 17 months, achieved distinctions in all areas of her apprenticeship.

She said: “I enjoyed the variety of the apprenticeship.

“There was a really good mix between studying and on the job learning.

“This was really well supported by the in-store staff always being there for advice and practical demonstrations when needed.

“On-the-job training meant that I was able to really solidify knowledge learned during my dedicated study time, and it also gave me the confidence to put my new skills into practice and gain experience with real-world examples.

“I would recommend the apprenticeship to anybody who is looking for a challenge and eager to learn about the amazing world of optics.

“After my apprenticeship, I have moved on to studying for my Cert 3 and hope to move on to Cert 4 afterwards in order to become a senior dispenser.”

Specsavers is one of the largest apprenticeship-employer providers to have achieved an outstanding grading in England.

Minehead store manager Becky Howe said: “We are extremely proud of Maddi and Poppy.

“It has been great having them in our team and we look forward to seeing what the future will hold for them.”

Paul Bradford, the store's optometrist director, said: ‘With Poppy and Maddi we have enjoyed huge success with the apprenticeships programme.

“It really highlights to us the importance of developing local people for a bright future.

“We are big advocates of ‘growing our own’ and the apprenticeship scheme is often the first step in developing individuals and securing their future within the optical profession.

“Poppy and Maddi are developing key skills that will help with their career aspirations, and I know they will succeed in the years ahead.’”