New Optical Assistant Apprenticeship programme introduced

Tony Douglass, course lead

Training 2000 tutor and ABDO National Clinical Committee (NCC) member, Tony Douglass, is using his experience in dispensing optics to lead a new Optical Assistant Apprenticeship (OAA) programme.

Tony recently joined Training 2000, part of the University of Central Lancashire, as lead tutor for its new OAA programme. He aims to use his many years’ experience to help guide students through the apprenticeship and on into further study or full-time employment.

Tony completed a Geography degree with Lancaster University before switching to optics, and qualifying as a dispensing optician from Bradford College in 1999.

He recalls: “While I was at college, I worked in my father’s butchers shop in Chorley. I actually got into optics accidentally when I joined Dollond & Aitchison’s trainee management scheme; since then I’ve never looked back.”

Tony went on to become a manager at Dollond & Aitchison within the Warrington, Shrewsbury and Chester branches over the space of two years. He then worked as a senior dispensing optician for Specsavers in Chorley.

Tony then moved into education and worked as a distance learning courses coordinator for the next eight years. Three of those years were spent teaching trainee dispensing opticians. He was also a visiting lecturer in ophthalmic dispensing at Anglia Ruskin University. In 2013, Tony became the national dispensing training manager at Specsavers before joining Training 2000 in November 2020.

Of his new teaching role,  Tony said: “I love dispensing optics and I aim to pass this enthusiasm on to others. It’s a really exciting time to be starting a new Optical Assistant Level 2 apprenticeship.

“Level 2 apprenticeships have been available to the multiple sector for several years but the independent sector – and those multiples not in a position to be apprenticeship providers – have not been able to access government funding for apprenticeship training, until now.”

Tony was chairman of the dispensing opticians conference hall at Specsavers’ Professional Advancement Conference, where he wrote and presented lectures to more than 500 people and managed all other speakers at the event.

As a member of the ABDO NCC, Tony supports dispensing-related clinical issues.

The OAA is a 12-month course, which includes the end-point assessment needed to successfully complete the programme. Most learning materials can be used for in-practice training too.

For more information about the course, telephone 01254 54659, email or visit