Two apprentices from the North East are celebrating after graduating as part of the ‘Class of 2017’, gaining a nationally-recognised qualification in optical retail with Vision Express.

The ambitious youngsters beat off stiff competition to earn their place on the scheme, which launched in 2014, with the national optician deluged by over 15 applications per place.

Managed and delivered by in-house optical experts, the 13-month employee-embedded programme gives candidates the opportunity to earn while they learn, with assessor support and hands-on experience.

The North-East graduates were among those honoured at an official national ceremony, held at the East Midlands Conference Centre, all of whom have qualified with a Level 2, Intermediate Apprenticeship in Health (Optical Retail), which is equivalent to five GCSEs.

Among those graduating was 22-year-old Toni-Leigh Goldsmith from Sunderland and 19-year-old Emma Neil from Durham. Both have been offered permanent positions and will continue their career with Vision Express as qualified optical assistants.

Toni-Leigh, who has secured a position with the team at the Sunderland store, said: “It feels amazing to graduate. At the start, I didn’t know if I would be able to get through the scheme, never mind progress to where I am now, but because Vision Express offers continued training and development opportunities, I’m now silver-qualified in the steps-to-success programme. I’m also looking to progress in my Rising Stars team leader training over the next three months.

“Vision Express has given me such a good opportunity and I hope to stay with the company and work my way up to a managerial role.”

The Class of 2017 achieved an above average pass rate and nine in 10 graduates were offered a permanent position upon completion. It follows education regulator Ofsted recently awarding Vision Express a ‘Good’ rating across all areas of its apprenticeship programme.

Kate Clayton, who was herself an apprentice and has progressed through the organisation to become a member of the company executive team as Human Resources Director, said: “I am very proud of every single one of our Class of 2017.Now they are on the career ladder at Vision Express, there’s a huge number of possibilities for them, with several of our apprenticeship graduates from recent years advancing to management roles.

“My congratulations to Toni-Leigh and Emma on their successful completion of the apprenticeship scheme – the sky is the limit for them now.”

Vision Express was the first retailer to join the 5% Club, pledging to have 5% of its UK workforce comprising young people on structured training schemes over the next five years, with its popular apprenticeship programme just one way it is helping tackle the issue of youth unemployment in the UK.

The next apprenticeship intake starts in late November, with applications open now.  To qualify candidates must be at least 16 years old and not in full or part time education, with a great attitude and aptitude to learn.

For more information about the apprenticeships at Vision Express visit: www.visionexpresscareers.com

Vision Express offers an eye test to best practice guidelines of the College of Optometrists (COO), with each Vision Express optometrist being a qualified eye health professional. To find your nearest Vision Express store and make an eye test appointment visit:http://www.visionexpress.com/opticians/

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