Over 1,500 students got a glimpse of how exciting a career in optics could look, as the Specsavers Graduate Recruitment team took a stand at this year’s Big Bang Fair.
The four day fair, held last week at Birmingham’s NEC is the largest celebration of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) for young people in the UK and Specsavers was the sole representative of the optics industry present.
Early Careers Manager Gemma Drake explains why we were there: ‘Research shows there is a real lack of awareness in schools about optical careers, we also have a shortage of optometrists in rural / coastal regions across the UK. The Big Bang plays a key role in our school outreach strategy - it attracts around 70,000 people, allowing us to reach a national audience of students, teachers and parents. The exhibition follows the success of our new education programme 'A Career with a View' which has been designed to introduce students to the exciting career opportunities available within optometry and optics.
Inspiring young people to consider careers in optics can be a challenge – partly because Specsavers doesn’t currently get the recognition it deserves as a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) employer. Says Gemma: ‘School leavers see organisations such as Rolls Royce, GSK, the NHS as STEM employers of choice. They recognise Specsavers from the high street but don’t see that we can offer STEM careers too'.
Changing that perception means capturing the hearts and minds of the young talent pool earlier, when they’re making subject choices, which is where events like Big Bang can help – by putting Specsavers firmly on the map as an attractive STEM employer. Beyond the fair itself, a programme of school outreach events, taster days, store visits and work experience opportunities is being developed aimed at generating a pipeline of talented optics professionals.
Over the course of the fair, the Specsavers team put on a workshop-based event which attracted a prediction-defying 1,500 students: ‘We were blown away, we expected a maximum of 1,000 students over the course of the four days says Gemma. The half-hour session included an optometrist-led presentation on the eye and fundus photography and how a visit to the optician can pick up on other health problems. Two practical challenges followed. Students got to handle contact lenses, use VDTM on iPads and try on different frame styles while a business-based challenge explored the kind of service skills that they would need to work in a Specsavers store. They also had the chance to win an iPad and make the most of the selfie board.
On the Saturday, students attended with their parents, giving the team a rare chance to talk to them direct: ‘We had some really valuable conversations about career pathways and we’ll be following up with students to offer work experience and store visits,’ says Gemma.
The team is evaluating the impact of the Big Bang but Gemma’s delighted with how the event landed: ‘It’s going to take me a few days to get my voice back, but we’re hoping to do it again. Pitching up next to organisations like the NHS and GSK was the perfect platform for us.’
And they couldn’t have done it without a little help: ‘We had fantastic support from our staff of optoms, store managers, and student volunteers - I can’t thank them enough.’
To find out more about A Career With A View please visit www.acareerwithaview.co.uk