A 50% wage subsidy, for new and recently appointed permanent employees who enrol to train with a registered training organisation, is now available under the Boosting Apprenticeship/Traineeship program.
Announced on 6 October, the subsidy is part of the Government’s economic response to COVID-19. With most optometry practices no longer eligible for JobKeeper, it provides a welcome cash injection that makes it easier, and more financially viable to employ, maintain and train staff.
The program is available to permanent employees taken on within the last three months, and casual employees who are switched into permanent positions. There is no age limit or prior length of employment required.
The subsidy will be paid to employers quarterly, in arrears, to a maximum of $7,000 per quarter ($28,000 pa) per employee taken on under the program
James Gibbins, co-founder and director of ACOD, said the announcement is having an immediate and positive impact on the optometry/ optical dispensing sector.
“The subsidy is making it viable for hundreds of optical assistants throughout Australia to enrol into, and complete the Certificate IV in Optical Dispensing HLT47815. This 50% wages subsidy, paid directly to employers, will cover all course expenses and workshop expenses, and ensure the staff member is employed for at least the next 12 months through these challenging times and potential recession.”
While some staff members may not feel ready to jump into the course immediately, Mr Gibbins pointed out that saying “yes” to this opportunity will benefit the individual, the practice and the community.
Higher Skills: Better Service
“There is a big difference between an unqualified optical assistant and a qualified optical dispenser. While an optical assistant can help the customer with their wonderful retail skills and some optical understanding from their own experience and in-store mentoring, they will usually have a poor grasp of lens design, interpretation of the prescription, prism, trouble shooting, dispensing atypical (unusual and high) prescriptions. Additionally, they don’t usually have the skills to quality control and final check completed spectacle against both the prescription and then the official Australian Standards for completed spectacles.
The Certificate IV in Optical Dispensing Course No: HLT47815 is a respected, accredited, internationally recognised qualification that provides the understanding, practical skills and capability required.
Poor optical understanding, inaccurate facial and frame measurements and ordering errors result in remakes and non-adapt rates for wearers, which lens labs say occur unacceptably often, resulting in higher costs being passed on to everyone.
Mr Gibbins said the optical dispensing traineeship course reduces warranty remakes and the non-adapt experiences.
“It will train your staff in lens and frame designs, and enable them to match the most ideal lens and frame combinations for your customers, according to their prescription, their physiology, their visual needs and their lifestyle… it will also provide participants with practical skills for frame manipulation and facial measurements according to industry best standards.”
For staff members, the course provides opportunities for job security and career progression.
“Like most industries, this piece of paper makes a difference,” said Mr Gibbins. “It’s a qualification that will sit on the resume of every course graduate for ever. In the optical industry, employers will both employ a qualified optical dispenser first and pay more than they would an optical assistant, regardless of the economic conditions. However, if we move into a recession, those with less valuable skills are more likely to lose their positions first.”
Available for One Year Only
Mr Gibbins encouraged employers to take advantage of the subsidy by encouraging employees to register for the Certificate IV in Optical Dispensing HLT47815 as quickly as possible.
“The subsidy provides an outstanding opportunity to upskill your staff and provide your patients with a much higher level of service. However, it is only available for one year, from 5 October 2020 to 30 September 2021. Consider the opportunity to employ new staff, switch casual staff into permanent positions, and/or get your recently appointed staff on-board, and reassure them of the benefits they will receive. If they feel they don’t have the experience to commence the course, they can acquire basic knowledge through www.OpticalAssitantEssentials.com – a free online site developed by ACOD in conjunction with mivision.”
“As an employer, you need to be proactive. Employees who decline this opportunity to enrol are preventing you from accessing this wages subsidy, from offering your patients a higher standard of eye care, and potentially costing you more in remakes.”
ACOD recently announced as new program of learning for the Certificate IV in Optical Dispensing Course No: HLT47815, in response to feedback and increasing participation.
“We have had a massive increase in enrolments for our Certificate IV in Optical Dispensing HLT47815 – it’s an uptake we’ve never seen before. Fortunately, we now have 12 teaching staff and four teachers in training. We’ve moved many of our course modules online, but still retain our interactive face-to-face workshops, which means we are well resourced to provide all of our students with an excellent learning experience,” Mr Gibbins said.
The Boosting Apprenticeship wage subsidy will be paid to employers quarterly, in arrears, to a maximum of AU$7,000 per quarter ($28,000 pa) per employee taken on under the program. Employers can enrol multiple staff at once, and attract the wages subsidy for each enrolled staff member. Payments will be backdated to the date when the employee registered to enrol with the registered training organisation.
Find out more about the Boosting Apprenticeship initiative here.