Continuing its leadership in, and advocacy of, dispensing advancement and development across Australia and New Zealand, Specsavers is currently working to increase the accessibility of the three-year Fellowship Dispensing Diploma (FBDO) course.

Dispensing advancement is a key component in Specsavers Australia & New Zealand’s ‘Transforming eye health’ mission. To provide the highest quality eye care to patients, it is important that an appropriate lens and frame combination is correctly fitted to suit each individual’s prescription, facial characteristics, lifestyle habits, and personal style, and Specsavers is committed to equipping its dispensing workforce with the skills and development opportunities to optimally deliver this service.

Since establishing its dispensing advancement strategy in 2013, Specsavers has seen more than 1,500 Australian and New Zealand dispensers complete the Certificate IV in Optical Dispensing qualification (Cert IV), supported New Zealand dispensing development eventsfacilitated dispensing training, and established the Specsavers Dispensing Conference. Specsavers’ latest dispensing advancement initiative builds on its ongoing investment into Cert IV and involves increasing the accessibility of the Association of British Dispensing Opticians’ (ABDO) FBDO course in Australia and New Zealand. Specsavers is working with ABDO to deliver two one-week blocks of face-to-face training in Australia with an ABDO educator for each year of study and hosting local ABDO-facilitated examinations.

“The FBDO Level 6 dispensing diploma is a really important build on our Cert IV engagement as it exceeds the standards of dispensing practice currently taught within Australia and New Zealand,” explained Richard Couch, Specsavers Head of Ophthalmic Lenses and Dispensing Advancement. “It is fundamentally important to growing and expanding the scope of optical dispensing practice within Specsavers stores and will greatly enhance our ability to provide better eye care and eyewear to our millions of customers.

“However, until now, Australian and New Zealand dispensing students could only complete the three-year diploma via correspondence without any ABDO face-to-face classes or support, and would have to travel to Malaysia or the UK to complete their examinations.

“As a business we have recognised the need to provide more substantial support to Australian and New Zealand FBDO students to help them refine essential skills vital to their course progression. Importantly, this will improve the quality of their in-store dispensing and, therefore, our patients’ experience.”

First face-to-face FBDO workshop
In September 2018, as part of a pilot for the new course format, three Specsavers optical dispensers – Simone Ferrari (Specsavers Sydney MetCentre, NSW), Jamin Krine (Specsavers Strathpine, Queensland) and Jonathan Beiers (Specsavers Sydney Central, NSW) – commenced their FBDO studies alongside two dispensing students from Deakin University. In mid-February, after undertaking six months of online study, accompanied by online tutoring with ABDO educators and in-store guidance by an FBDO-qualified Specsavers supervisor, the students came together in Melbourne for their first locally-facilitated FBDO ‘Block Release’ workshop.

Over the course of five days, the students received expert, face-to-face tutelage from ABDO College Principal Jo Underwood, who helped them understand some of the more difficult practical and theoretical concepts that they had been studying in their online modules.

Beyond its educational value, the workshop gave the students an opportunity to share their experiences with each other, as well as to provide the Specsavers Dispensing Advancement team with insights and feedback on the course structure.

“This feedback will help us to learn how the locally-facilitated aspects of the course can be improved so that we can ensure the course is delivered as effectively as possible for future local FBDO course intakes,” Richard explained.

More career development options
Commenting on the significance of the course for local dispensers, Jonathan said, “The FBDO course is going to be the new standard in optical dispensing in Australia. Since the industry’s deregulation, it has become even more important to show the professionalism and relevance of highly trained optical dispensers to ensure the sustainability of the profession and cement our place as crucial members of the optical industry.”

He added that the FBDO course content had enhanced what he had learned in Cert IV. “Cert IV was a great course and I would recommend it for most people as a precursor to the FBDO diploma, as it covers the basics of light, practical skills and patient care. The FBDO course takes each of those into more depth, and looks at anatomy and refraction. While they are really complementary courses, the FBDO course is absolutely the next level, and is where Australia needs to be to compare with the dispensing skills seen in the rest of the world.”

Jamin, who is also Cert IV-qualified, echoed Jonathan’s views on the value of the FBDO course. “The FBDO course goes deeper into each subject so that you understand the fundamental principles behind everything a dispenser does. I have found that it also places a high emphasis on professionalism and adaptability – skills that are vital in our fast-paced line of work. So far, this has been an invaluable experience, and I am grateful to have had this opportunity to advance my career.”

Richard stated, “By providing the FBDO program alongside our continued support of the Cert IV in Optical Dispensing – with both programs united through the annual Specsavers Dispensing Conference – Specsavers team members now have easier access to a number of different development opportunities, allowing them to choose the optical dispensing career path that suits their personal aspirations.”

The second 2019 FBDO Block Release workshop will take place in May 2019, and expressions of interest for the 2019 local FBDO course intake will open in April 2019.

Read the pilot intake’s initial thoughts on the FBDO course.