Two unique vision care programs launched to meet industry demand
The timing couldn’t be better to launch new programming to fill the growing workforce gap in the province’s eye-care industry. According to the Alberta College and Association of Opticians (ACAO), Alberta’s optical industry is facing a critical shortage of qualified opticians and is projecting 13% retirement in the next two to five years and 83% in the next five or more years.
Through close collaboration with industry, two new unique vision-care sciences programs were launched by the School of Health and Public Safety — an Optician Diploma and the Ophthalmic and Optometric Assisting Certificate. SAIT also invested $1 million in a state-of-the-art lab for a unique real-world hands-on learning experience.
“This programming was created by doing what SAIT does best — partnering with industry to drive innovation,” says optometrist Shay Gornshtein, Academic Chair, Vision Care Sciences at SAIT. “The eye-care industry relies heavily on technology and evolves almost as fast. The technology-focused curriculum and lab space means graduates will hit the ground running and thrive in almost any eye-care, patient-focused environment.”
The hands-on training in the lab — a fully outfitted eye clinic right on campus — for the Optician Diploma makes it the first of its kind in Alberta. The Ophthalmic and Optometric Assisting Certificate is unique in Canada, as it’s traditionally delivered as two separate programs with very little to no applied learning. In both programs, the first semester is joined to incorporate a direct pathway from the certificate to the diploma. Students can start with the Ophthalmic and Optometric Assisting program and ladder into the Optician diploma program if they choose.
The lab and programs reached a significant milestone during the Winter 2021 semester, with 55 students actively training in the space.
“If we can generate graduates who can directly support the patient and health outcomes of our communities, our purpose through this programming is sacred.”
Though more research is needed, experts, including Gornshtein, anticipate there may be long-term effects on general eye health from COVID-19. “If you think about our increased use of technology, more screen time and more remote work, our timing for this programming couldn’t be better.”
“The Alberta College and Association of Opticians (ACAO) is pleased to see the opening of SAIT’s Vision Care Sciences programs in Calgary,” says Dean Thompson, Chair of the ACAO. “These programs will open more seats for students interested in pursuing an optical career in Alberta and allow for growth opportunities within the larger profession of opticianry.”
Vision realized through donor and partner support
Every year thousands of donors step up and provide critical support to students at SAIT. This new programming and lab space was supported by generous donors and partners including Nikon Optical Canada, HOYA Vision Care Canada, BC College of Optics, Clearly, Visual Eyes and Bailey Nelson.
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Applications are currently being accepted for the Fall 2021 semester.
A peek inside the optician lab
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