A History of WCSM’s involvement in education and training

A History of WCSM’s involvement in education and training

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.

However, since the 1980s, when it played a prominent role in the establishment of the College of Optometrists and the Association of British Dispensing Opticians, the Company has 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 has developed a suite of vocational qualifications based on National Occupational Standards which the Company's representatives helped to develop. All the qualifications are designed to help those already in employment within optics, where the knowledge they need to pass examinations is supplemented every day by their everyday work.

The Company supports the work being done by some employers and training providers in the industry to develop a Trailblazer Apprenticeship standard for optical manufacturing.

Holders of the Level 4 Qualification for Optical Technicians, which has long been recognised as the "gold standard" within the optical industry at this level, are entitled to put the letters SMC(Tech) after their name. A new qualification for Optical Assistants at the same level is being developed and should be launched in 2017.