A Bury based apprentice is celebrating after graduating with a nationally-recognised qualification in optical retail with Vision Express, which enabled her to be hands on whilst learning new skills.

Chloe O’Connor, 20, was looking for a new opportunity when she beat off stiff competition to earn her place on the apprenticeship. She was recently honoured, along with the rest of ‘Class of 2018’ at an official national ceremony in Nottingham.

Qualifying with a Level 2, Intermediate Apprenticeship in Health (Optical Retail), which is equivalent to five GCSEs, Chloe has been offered a permanent position with the Bury store and will continue her career with Vision Express.

Chloe said: “Before joining the Vision Express apprenticeship scheme I was at university but was looking for a new opportunity. The scheme is very hands on and it’s enabled me to learn and develop new skills. I feel like my life skills have improved, along with my communication skills and confidence.

“My knowledge of optical and retail sectors has vastly improved thanks to the challenges we were set. I’d definitely recommend the apprenticeship scheme to other young people looking for a new opportunity.”

Dale Morris, store manager at Vision Express Bury, said: “Our apprenticeship programme continues to be extremely popular and is a fantastic way to nurture young, ambitious talent. We are working closely with Chloe to develop her knowledge and skills and hopefully opening up a wealth of career options to enable her to progress further within the company.”

Managed and delivered by in-house optical experts, the 13-month employee-embedded programme was launched in 2014 and gives candidates the opportunity to earn while they learn, with assessor support and hands-on experience. Education regulator Ofsted recently awarded Vision Express a ‘Good’ rating across all areas of its apprenticeship programme.

Kate Glasby, human resources director, who joined the organisation as an apprentice too, said: “Chloe now has a wealth of opportunities available to her, and we’re pleased she’s going to continue to hone her skills in a permanent role at our Bury store. Almost 80% of our apprentices progress to further professional development after they’ve qualified, which demonstrates the value they place on their experience. We’re a people-driven company so it’s fantastic to continue to see a high demand from ambitious youngsters who are keen to share our journey.”

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.

Apprentices must be at least 16 years old and not in full or part time education, with a great attitude and aptitude to learn. Schemes accept new applicants throughout the year, with applications open now. For more information visit: www.visionexpresscareers.comChloe O’Connor