Molly Brackpool started her Specsavers journey as an Optical Assistant when she was 17. She’s now a fully qualified Hearing Aid Dispenser at Specsavers Bradley Stoke in Bristol after studying for a foundation degree with De Montfort University as part of her audiology apprenticeship
When did you decide to move into audiology, Molly?
At the time, we only had one Hearing Aid Dispenser in the business at Bradley Stoke, and my director said there was huge room for development and growth on the audiology side of things. To be honest, I thought, ‘Audiology? No. It’s not really something I’ve ever thought about’. But I was encouraged to do the Hearing Care Assistant course, and I haven’t looked back after becoming a HCA in January 2019 and then a qualified Hearing Aid Dispenser in 2021.
When did you know that audiology was the career for you?
I’ll never forget observing my first clinic with my supervisor when I was doing my HCA training. It still gives me goosebumps when I think about it. A gentleman had come into store for a follow-up appointment after having his hearing aids fitted. “So how have you found the aids?” she asked him. And he just burst into tears. “Is there anything wrong?” she said, and he replied: “For the first time in a long, long time, nothing is wrong”. He could hear the birds singing, he could hear his grandchildren running down the hallway and calling his name. That moment I thought, ‘This is for me’.
I’ve had many of those moments for myself now, and ‘rewarding’ doesn’t do it justice. It’s a privilege to be able to give someone back their hearing, their connection to their friends and family, to the world around them. I never thought I’d be in a position to help people in the way I do, and I feel so lucky, so lucky, to be able to do it.
How have Specsavers supported you in your career?
The level of support you get at Specsavers, and the progression and development opportunities that are available, is nothing sort of brilliant. But it’s more than that. It’s the encouragement that I’ve received from the beginning that’s so special. This sounds really clichéd but it’s like having a family who are rooting for you and want you to do well. The conversation is always, ‘What do you need to get where you’d like to be? How can we help? How can we celebrate when you get there?’. This comes from the team I work with at Bradley Stoke – they are like my family, I’d feel like I’d lost a limb if I didn’t have them – and from the wider business too.
Tell us more about the apprenticeship and your degree
I started my apprenticeship with De Montfort University in Leicester in January 2020 and I now have a Foundation Degree in Hearing Aid Audiology. It was a combination of working with a supervisor in store to develop my skills and put what I was learning into practice while completing the course lectures and essays alongside this. It’s a brilliant way of learning.
I often had friends and family say, ‘How are you doing a degree? You’re working full time. Where are you finding the time?’. The answer is that I had protected time to complete my studies, so everything was done within my job, and everything was funded by Specsavers, which is amazing.
In ‘normal times’, I would have spent more time on campus but because of Covid it was almost all done remotely. I got my result in July 2021 and graduated in November with a Foundation Degree (FdSc) in Hearing Aid Audiology.
And your Specsavers career isn’t slowing down, is it? You’re now working towards running your own Specsavers Audiology business
There’s no rest for the wicked, is there?! When I’d got my Hearing Aid Audiology degree, my Directors at Bradley Stoke asked me if I wanted to take a bit of time, stop studying for a while, but I wanted to hit the ground running with the Specsavers Partnership programme. I’ve always been interested in a career that’s business-orientated, so it’s so exciting to think that, when I’ve completed the programme, I’ll be ready to run my own Specsavers Audiology business. I’ll have the best of both worlds: I’ll be a clinician and I’ll be a business owner too.
I can’t believe that I’ve got my degree, I’ve got a career that I love, and I’m on a journey now to running my own Specsavers business. When I look back to when I started as an Optical Assistant, and where I am now, I think ‘Wow! Who saw that coming?’. Because I definitely didn’t. It just shows what you can achieve when you have the support and encouragement to be the best you can be.