WCSM (often called the Spectacle Makers’ Company or "SMC" for short) was founded to improve the quality of life for the vision impaired. At the time of its incorporation in 1629, however, there was little more that could be done other than to ensure that the spectacles issued to them were fit for use – hence the Company's name.
For almost a hundred years, the Company trained and qualified "high street opticians", as witnessed by the letters "FSMC" and "SMC(Disp)" still occasionally displayed in some optical practices today.
In the 1980s, the Company played a prominent role in the establishment of the College of Optometrists and the Association of British Dispensing Opticians. It then focused on promoting qualifications to increase skills and knowledge for those who work in optical laboratories and practices but are not yet at the professional level where their work falls within the regulation of the General Optical Council. It is quite likely that the person who fitted the lenses into your chosen frame in an optical laboratory and the person in the practice who fits spectacles may be "SMC" qualified.
Accredited as a national "awarding body" in England, Northern Ireland and Wales since 2001, and in Scotland since 2010, the Company developed a suite of vocational qualifications based on National Occupational Standards. The qualifications were designed to help those already in employment within optics, where the knowledge needed to pass examinations would be supplemented by their everyday work.
The Company has supported the work being done by some employers and training providers in the industry to develop a Trailblazer Apprenticeship standard for optical manufacturing and new apprenticeships in England and Scotland in optical retail skills.
The Company announced in March 2019 that it would be withdrawing accredited qualifications at the lower levels by 31 March 2021.