The role of an Optometry Society in career pathways for students

Written by Luke McRoy-Jones, President of Plymouth Optometry Society.

Plymouth OpSoc is the exclusive society for optometry students studying at the University of Plymouth. As a society, we represent around 200 undergraduate students across three years of the programme, as well as postgraduates and alumni. The role of the society ultimately is to enhance the university experience for our students. As a society, we’ve grown over the last couple of years, in line with the increased intake for the University of Plymouth programme and the growth in the role of the society.

Alongside the social elements of student life, the society has a pivotal role in career pathways and pre-registration recruitment. As part of their second year, optometry students are tasked with finding their pre-registration period for when they graduate. This is employment within a practice/hospital environment whereby the student is supervised by a registered optometrist, under the College of Optometrists.

The large multiples- Specsavers, Vision Express & Boots usually have deadlines within Semester One of second year and it is therefore essential that students not only understand the pathways and options open to them, but they also understand how to put an application together. The responsibility of coordinating the talks, interviews, recruitment days etc. falls under the optometry society.

This year, we arranged for Specsavers, Vision Express and Boots to all visit the university to talk to students. The companies usually visit us in October time to talk about their pre-registration packages generally and the application timescale. We usually then arrange for them to come back in November/December time to conduct their central interviews and shortlisting with students. As a committee, we have an excellent working relationship with all the major employers. We are usually able to arrange for the students to have refreshments in the form of pizza too, which is always a hit! As well as the large multiples, this year we were very keen for independent practice to be represented alongside the offerings of the multiples. Therefore, we arranged for Peter Noakes of Noakes, Habermehl and Kerr Opticians and the Association for Independent Optometrists to come in and speak to students about opportunities within the independent sector. This gave students a wealth of information during a very vital period and gave an insight into the excellent work of the independent sector.

More generally, we also arrange ‘Pathways’ evenings with local optometrists and the Association of Optometrists, to speak to all students about the pathways open to them after graduation. For second years, these run nicely alongside the pre-registration talks but they are useful for all years in showing them the vast amount of opportunities within the optical sector. We usually invite representatives from the high street, hospital (which many students will not have heard about prior to the talk), domiciliary, academia and the optical manufacturing sector. This year, we were lucky enough to have Specsavers Graduate Recruitment Team sponsor a pathways evening for us and we also had a separate Association of Optometrists evening.

In January, we are also running a ‘Domiciliary Taster Experience’ trip with The Outside Clinic, giving students an insight into an area of optometry they might have otherwise not considered. A small group of second and third year students will be attending this unique experience.

Finally, alongside the talks we run, we have an excellent relationship with the bodies (The Association of Optometrists & The College of Optometrists) and also impartial recruitment agencies, such as Vivid Optical. This gives students the support they need through their pre-registration applications and also when weighing up their career options beyond university.

To learn more about our society, you can visit our website www.plymouthopsoc.co.uk

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