Darlington Building Society has appointed eight local apprentices in customer service roles, having received more than 350 applications in a matter of days.

Two apprentices have joined as customer service consultants and will complete a level 3 apprenticeship, with the others joining the Branch network as customer service assistants and completing a level 2 apprenticeship before moving to level 3.

The programme, in partnership with Northern Skills Group, a part of Middlesbrough College, will last between 15 and 18 months.

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Megan, who has joined the society straight from school, said: “I looked at different opportunities but this one stood out because of the way the society is so engaged with the community, and there are so many opportunities to progress if you work hard.”

Chris, who lost his place as an apprentice with an engineering company because of the pandemic, added: “The more I researched the company, and saw what it stands for, the more it appealed to me.

“I love the family atmosphere in the company and my goal is to become a mortgage adviser.”

Chloe was attracted by the society’s long-term commitment to share 5% of its profits with good causes in local communities.

She said: “I’d been working in a call centre but it wasn’t for me, and the chance to join Darlington Building Society was an amazing opportunity.

“It does so much for the community – you feel you are part of something really worthwhile.”

The training – carried out under strict social distancing guidelines – begins with classroom-based learning of the company’s ethos, followed by systems training and financial education, before the recruits start working across the society’s nine branches.

Niki Barker, director of people and culture at Darlington Building Society, said: “We had plans to launch our own apprenticeship before the lockdown as part of our campaign to grow our own talent.

“The fact that it has still gone ahead is a clear demonstration of the Society’s continued investment in the local labour market.”

Niki added: “The Society’s aim is to be recognised as a North-East employer of choice.

“The pandemic is going to have a particular impact on the prospects of the 16-25 age group, and this apprenticeship programme is designed to help address that.

“It sends a really strong message about what the Society stands for – that it is passionate about serving members, investing in staff and supporting local communities.”