SAIT launches eye-care programs to fill anticipated gap in workforce

SAIT launched two new vision-care sciences programs and a $1 million, state-of-the-art lab. (Supplied)

An anticipated shortage of eye-care professionals in Alberta has prompted the launch of two new vision-care sciences programs at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT).

SAIT worked together with its partners and regulators in the vision-care industry and determined there will be a large gap in the industry's workforce by 2025 because of retirement.

The Alberta College and Association of Opticians (ACAO) projects that 13 per cent of opticians will retire in the next two to five years and 83 per cent in the next five or more years.

SAIT's two new programs, an Optician Diploma and the Ophthalmic and Optometric Assisting Certificate, will help meet the demand and students will receive hands-on experience in a $1 million, state-of-the-art lab.

"This programming was created by doing what SAIT does best — partnering with industry to drive innovation," said optometrist Shay Gornshtein, academic chair, Vision Care Sciences at SAIT in a release. "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 lab includes a fully equipped eye clinic and is the first of its kind in Alberta.

"The Alberta College and Association of Opticians (ACAO) is pleased to see the opening of SAIT’s Vision Care Sciences programs in Calgary," said 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."

Students in both programs receive the same instruction in the first semester to make it easier for those in the Ophthalmic and Optometric Assisting Certificate program to transition to the Optician Diploma program in they choose to do so.

Applications are being accepted for the Fall 2021 semester. Visit the website for more details.