Future Is Bright for Southwestern’s Optical Technician Program

Student lookingthrough glasses as part of optician program
Student Petra Torres working on her Optical Technician skills lab.

Residents eyeing a new career that has experienced 13 percent employment growth need look no further than Southwestern College’s optical technician program.

Begun in 2018 with grant funding from the Chula Vista Charitable Foundation in partnership with the South County Economic Development Council, the program has expanded into a full-fledged program through Southwestern College’s Continuing Education division.

Grounded in data–the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed a 13 percent employment growth during the last decade–input from local service providers, educators and industry representatives, college representatives understood the need for a short-term certificate program.

Now entering its second semester, enrollment is now open for classes that begin Feb. 15. The free classes meet in person on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 5 – 8:25 pm at the Higher Education Center at National City. The three-month program runs through May 11.

Students receive training for entry into the optical field as an optician or optometric assistant. The course covers topics such as anatomy and terminology pertaining to the eye, optical theory and spectacle lens design. Upon completion of the program, students should be prepared for their National Opticianry Exam (NOCE) administered by the Board of Opticianry.

Interested students can head to Continuing Education’s Apply and Register webpage to enroll.

The program provides state-of-the-art optical equipment where students practice their craft. Guest speakers teach career readiness while industry professional instructors bring practical experience and offer hands-on learning with the program’s lensometers.

Student looking through lensometer.
Petra Torres gaining skills on optical program equipment.

The optical technician program is also acknowledged by the California State Society for Opticians. Ruby Garcia, executive director at the California State Society for Opticians, said Southwestern College provides critical training.

“Optician students help you see the world with prescription eyeglasses and contact lenses clearly through educational development at Southwestern College’s Optical Technician Program,” Garcia said.

Optical Technician instructor Matt Rivera said the program is a great way for students to get a jumpstart in a new career.

“There is a lot of opportunity in the field right now with the growing number of optical retailers, fashion frame companies and eye doctors that are serving an aging population that requires vision care and vision products,” Rivera said.

Program graduate Victor Lucas Simpson landed a job at Eyeglass World upon completion of the program.

“It is motivating and inspiring for me to have the opportunity to sit down in a job interview and say that I am continuing my goals to becoming a full-time opticioner,” Simpson said. “I take pride in my education because it lets my employers know that I am taking this seriously. I want to be in the industry, and I want to be here.

“This program really helped me build my confidence as a whole,” Simpson said.